An ELT Glossary : Apposition / Appositive


Two language structures (often noun phrases and with modifiers) juxtaposed, each referring to the same thing, person, place etc. The two phrases are said to be "in apposition" while the second is "the appositive".

Examples (taken from The Guardian, 22/10/14)

  • Doctors and patient groups denounced the scheme after Dr Martin Brunet, a GP in Guildford, Surrey, revealed ...
  • The BCCI president, N Srinivasan, could yet emerge as a key figure...
  • ...  with its entry-level Dacia Sanderothe butt of so many Top Gear jokes – selling for £5,995.
  • Arx Pax, a small company from Los Gatos, California, is now offering ...
  • Traditionally, teff is baked into injera, a sourdough flatbread,” says...

As the examples show, apposition is a common feature in journalistic genres, where it enables the writer to identify or give concise information about the person/thing etc being described.

Sometimes more than one appositive may be included :
  • David Hoskins, 43, representative of the company, said yesterday that....

Other structures may also be appositives eg an infinitive clause or that clause

  • His dream, to visit Australia, was never realised
  • His argument, that sales would drop, was based on illogical reasoning.

The equivalent reference is shown by the fact that, in all these examples, you could combine the two phrases saying X is/was etc Y - eg :

  • Dr Martin Burnet is a GP in Guildford , Surrey
  • His dream was to visit Australia
  • His argument was that sales would drop.

A number of expressions can be used to signal apposition explicitly. These include namely, in other words,  that is, i.e. etc.
  • His dream, namely to visit Australia, was never realised.
  • We only use ponies - i.e. horses of no more than 14.2 hands high.
  • His father, in other words the king, refused to help.

Related Reading

Brown and Yule, Discourse Analysis, CUP

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