Lesson Plan - Get It!
Let's take another look
In the comic above, it seems that the boy is so excited about getting a new puppy that he misspeaks in the last block. Although he attempts to find a word that means something like "super positive" in order to get his point across, he does in fact use an appositive in the first block.
What is an appositive?
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that immediately follows another noun. An appositive explains or defines the noun it follows, and is usually set off by commas. In these examples, the noun or pronoun is purple and the appositive is orange:
Kevin's puppy, a golden retriever, ran across the yard.
Kevin's puppy, a cute golden retriever, ran across the yard.
Kevin's puppy, a cute golden retriever with a fluffy coat, ran across the yard.
Kevin's puppy, a cute, fluffy-coated golden retriever with tiny legs, ran across the yard.
Now, see if you can find the appositive in the first block of the comic.
If you picked out the appositive, "boy's best friend," then you are absolutely correct! The noun being modified is puppy, and the appositive is boy's best friend.
Here are a few more examples:
Holden, my neighbor, grew a 100-pound pumpkin last summer.
Dwight’s pet goldfish, Jaws, lives in a glass bowl on the bookshelf.
The garage, a danger zone, is filled with tools, bags of used clothing, boxes of papers, stacks of old magazines, and countless other piles of junk.
As mentioned above, the appositive is usually, but not always, set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas. As we see in the first example above, sometimes an appositive can sneak up on you without using commas, and in very subtle ways.
Here are a few examples of appositives that do not need commas:
The movie Up is one of my all-time favorites.
The author J. D. Sallinger wrote Nine Stories.
The band One Direction is my sister's favorite.
My cousin Christie lives on a farm.
Christie's friend Kate owns three horses.
When do appositives use commas?
You’ll need to use commas if the sentence would still be complete and clear without the appositive. Put one comma before the appositive and one after when it provides non-essential information.
Billy Bob Burns, one of the town’s antique dealers, collects old model trains. The sentence makes sense without the appositive. Since the appositive adds non-essential information, commas are necessary.
Take a look at the sentences regarding Kevin's puppy above. The starting sentence, "Kevin's puppy ran across the yard," would still make sense without the appositives.
When do appositives not use commas?
If the appositive gives meaning to the sentence, you will not need to put commas around the appositive. One-word appositives do not need commas. Here are a few examples:
The British band Queen took America by storm. Since there are many British bands, Queen makes the sentence meaningful. Therefore, no commas are needed.
Pam's brother Joe lives in Montpelier, Vermont. In order to explain which of Pam's brothers we mean, Joe becomes essential information. It’s also a one-word appositive. Therefore, no commas are needed.
Choosing where to place an appositive
An appositive can begin a sentence:
An appositive can break up a sentence:
An appositive can end a sentence:
If you are becoming more positive about appositives, move on to the Got It? section to prove it!