Appositive Phrase

Definition, Types, and Examples of Appositive Phrases

Do you know what an appositive phrase is in English grammar? You, the inquisitive reader, will know all about it in this article.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
My editor, a careful reader and perfectionist, reviews my articles thoroughly before they are published.

I am sure you must be wondering why is the phrase careful reader and perfectionist highlighted above. Well, that's because it is an appositive phrase. A phrase is defined as a group of words that act as a unit. There is no subject or a verb in a phrase. There are four types of phrases: prepositional, appositive, verbal, and absolute.

What is an Appositive Phrase?
The definition of an appositive phrase is a noun or noun phrase that renames, modifies, or amplifies another noun besides it. This phrase can be short or long. It always appears after the word it identifies or explains. It is always a noun phrase or pronoun phrase. A noun phrase consists of a noun and associated modifiers. These modifiers can be adjectives, a participial phrase, an infinitive phrase, a modifying clause, or a prepositional phrase. We will look at a few examples in this Penlighten article. But before that, let's look at its different types.
It has two types: essential appositive or nonessential appositive phrase. In case of the former, it contains information that is necessary to convey the meaning of a sentence. The phrase in this case is not separated by a comma from the rest of the sentence. For example:
My favorite superhero Batman fought Joker single-handedly and saved the people of Gotham.
In the above example, Batman is the essential appositive without which the sentence sounds incomplete due to lack of information.
A nonessential appositive phrase helps give information related to the sentence. However, the information provided is additional and will not affect the basic meaning of the sentence, if omitted. It is separated using commas in this case.
Batman, my favorite superhero, fought Joker single-handedly and saved the people of Gotham.
In the example given above "my favorite superhero" is the nonessential appositive phrase. Even if you are not told by the writer that Batman is his favorite superhero, it is quite self-explanatory that he fought Joker to save Gotham. You can even change the nonessential phrase and it won't affect the basic meaning of the sentence. For example:
Batman, a DC comics superhero, fought Joker single-handedly and saved the people of Gotham.
The best way to differentiate between the two phrases is that an essential phrase is important to convey the basic meaning of the sentence. If you change the essential appositive, it will change the meaning or facts related to the sentence. Also, a nonessential phrase requires commas. Let us look at some examples to make things more clear.
The appositive phrase in the sentence is highlighted using red color.
  • My uncle, a doctor, is visiting America for the holidays.
  • The scouts climbed the mountain, one of the highest in the region.
  • My sister-in-law Mary can knit a sweater a day.
  • Our home, a farmhouse, is being repaired.
To sum up, these phrases are nouns or pronouns that explain more about another noun.