Monday, March 31, 2014

, Appositives,

Commas are one of the most difficult grammar concepts to grasp, and one of the most common comma confusions is regarding appositives. "What in the world are appositives?" you may ask. Well, in simple terms an appositive is a noun or noun phrase which renames or redefines a noun right next to it. Let me give you some examples.

Noun: Blue   Appositive: Green

1) My brother Liam lives in California.

See how Liam only renames brother? It doesn't really add extra information about brother.

2) Violet, my purple cat, is the strangest cat in the neighborhood.

Again, Violet only renames cat without adding outside information. 

Did you notice the two commas around the appositive in the second example, and none around the appositive in first example? Sometimes the noun is too general without the appositive, and the meaning of the sentence changes without it.

If I took out Liam in the first example, I will be left with:

1) My brother lives in California.

Which brother? Liam, Jacob, John, Bobby, or Tommy? The sentence is now too general to give the message it gives with the appositive. Therefore, it needs no commas; all the information is essential.

In the second example, taking out the appositive will leave:

2) Violet is the strangest cat in the neighborhood.

This sentence remains specific to the one cat, Violet, even though the reader no longer knows that it is my cat. It gives the same message with and without the appositive. In this case, you need commas on either side of the appositive. 

Lets do a few more examples.

1) The vacation house, a large contemporary villa, was near the beach.

A large contemporary villa just renames the noun house. Again, because the sentence works without the appositive, you must place commas on either side of it.

2) My college begins its new semester in August, the most sweltering month of the year.

In this example, August is being redefined as the most sweltering month of the year. Had the appositive been in the middle of the sentence, it would have needed two commas. However, as it is at the end, the period takes the place of the second comma.

3) The first president of the U.S., George Washington was a general during the Revolutionary War. 

4) The author of The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien was a legendary linguist.

In number three and four, the appositive comes at the beginning of the sentence. Therefore, the same rule applies as example two except the first comma is dropped instead of the second one.

Although appositives may seem like a difficult concept in the beginning, being aware of what they are can help you notice them in your reading. As you become more familiar with appositives, start to incorporate them in your writing. With steady progress, you will soon be a pro!

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