#21: Appositives

Teach Appositives

Main Idea

Teaches ESL students a specific kind of sentence that works well in all kinds of writing. It looks like a grammar lesson, but really this lesson shows ESL students how to improve their English writing style.

What is an appositive?

An appositive is a noun, or noun phrase, that gives the reader extra information about a nearby noun. An appositive resembles a relative clause – but there are no words like ‘which, who or that’ at the beginning of the clause.

For example: Benny, my first dog, loved to chase birds. (The appositive is my first dog.)

Why use an appositive in your writing?
1. Use it to paraphrase – change the original sentence.
2. Add details to a sentence quickly.
3. Add sentence variety which makes the writing more interesting.

Two Kinds of Appositives

1 Restrictive: the appositive has to stay in the sentence.

Sometimes the appositive has to stay in the sentence – it can’t be deleted. If deleted, the sentence would have no meaning. These appositives are called restrictive. Note that commas are not required for restrictive appositives. For example:

  1. Have you read the novel War and Peace?
  2. The rock group Rush will perform at the Rogers Centre next week.

If we remove the appositive – War and Peace – we wouldn’t know which book the speaker was talking about. Same thing for the second sentence. If we delete the appositive RUSH, we wouldn’t know which group was going to play.

2 Unrestricted: the appositive is useful but it can be removed.

In these sentences the appositive can be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence. In these sentences, these appositives are surrounded by commas. For example:

  1. My uncle, an engineer, is moving to China.
  2. Tom Cruise, the movie actor, will visit Seoul next week.

In both of these example, we can remove the appositive and sentences are still clear.

  1. My uncle is moving to China.
  2. Tom Cruise will visit Seoul next week.


Click the link to get practice questions and answers on the pdf worksheet.

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