Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to define or modify the other. When this device is used, the two elements are said to be in apposition. For example, in the phrase "my friend Alice", the name "Alice" is in apposition to "my friend".
Traditionally, appositions were called by their Latin name appositio, although the English form is now more commonly used. It is derived from Latin: ad ("near") and positio ("placement").
Apposition is a figure of speech of the scheme type, and often results when the verbs (particularly verbs of being) in supporting clauses are eliminated to produce shorter descriptive phrases. This makes them often function as hyperbatons, or figures of disorder, because they can disrupt the flow of a sentence. For example, in the phrase: "My wife, a nurse by training, ...", it is necessary to pause before the parenthetical modification "a nurse by training".
|Look up apposition in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Restrictive versus non-restrictive 
Apposition can either be restrictive, or non-restrictive where the second element parenthetically modifies the first.
In a non-restrictive appositive, the second element parenthetically modifies the first without changing its scope and it is not crucial to the meaning of the sentence. In a restrictive appositive, the second element limits or clarifies the foregoing one in some crucial way. For example in the phrase "my friend Alice", "Alice" specifies to which friend the speaker is referring and is therefore restrictive. On the other hand, in the above example: "my wife, a nurse by training, ..." the parenthetical "a nurse by training" does not narrow down the subject, but rather provides additional information about the subject, namely, "my wife". In English, non-restrictive appositives are typically preceded or set off by commas, while restrictive appositives are not set off by commas.
Not all restrictive clauses are appositives. For example, Alice in "Bill's friend Alice ..." is an appositive noun; Alice in "Bill's friend, whose name is Alice, ..." is not an appositive but, rather, the predicate of a restrictive clause. The main difference between the two is that the second explicitly states what an apposition would omit: that the friend in question is named Alice. If the meaning is clear "Bill's friend Alice" can be used ("Bill was here with his friend. [other remarks] Bill's friend Alice...").
The same words can change from restrictive to non-restrictive (or vice versa) depending on the speaker and context. Consider the phrase "my brother Nathan". If the speaker has more than one brother, the name Nathan is restrictive as it clarifies which brother. However, if the speaker has only one brother, then the brother's name is parenthetical and the correct way to write it is: "my brother, Nathan, ...". If it is not known which is the case, it is safer to omit the commas: "John's brother Nathan" is acceptable whether or not John has more brothers, unlike "John's brother, Nathan".
In the following examples, the appositive phrases are offset in boldface:
- Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona, received the Republican nomination in 1964.
- John and Bob, both friends of mine, are starting a band.
- Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror of Persia, was one of the most successful military commanders of the ancient world.
- Dean Martin, a very popular singer, will be performing at the Sands Hotel.
A kind of appositive phrase that has caused controversy is the "false title", as in "United States Deputy Marshal Jim Hall said Tuesday that fatally wounded Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Matthews told him that fugitive tax protester Gordon W. Kahl was dead before other law enforcement officials started shooting." Such phrases are usually non-restrictive, as in the above example.
Appositive genitive 
In several languages, the same syntax which is used to express such relations as possession can also be used appositively. Examples include:
- In English:
- In classical Greek:
- In Japanese:
- In Biblical Hebrew:
See also 
- "Commas: Some Common Problems", Princeton Writing Program, Princeton University, 1999, princeton.edu/writing/center/resources/.
- Reed, Roy (July 25, 1987). "Titles That Aren't Titles". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-23. According to that site, a version of the article appeared in the New York Times, July 5, 1987, p. 31. The sentence is quoted from the Arkansas Gazette.
- Chapter 5, §14.3 (pages 447–448), Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey K. Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-43146-8
- §1322 (pages 317–318), Herbert Weir Smyth, revised by Gordon M. Messing, Greek Grammar, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1956 Perseus Digital Library
- §9.5.3h (p. 153), Bruce K. Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990. ISBN 0-931464-31-5
- A comprehensive treatment of apposition in English is given in §§17.65–93 (pages 1300–1320) and elsewhere in: Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartvik (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London and New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-51734-6.
- On the apposition vs. double subject issue in Romanian, see: Appositions Versus Double Subject Sentences – What Information the Speech Analysis Brings to a Grammar Debate, by Horia-Nicolai Teodorescu and Diana Trandabăţ. In: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer Berlin, Heidelberg, ISSN 0302-9743, Volume 4629/2007, "Text, Speech and Dialogue", pp. 286–293.
- Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar, section 282
- Audio illustrations
- Appositives at chompchomp.com
- Apposition and double subject in Romanian - a controversial issue in * Sounds of the Romanian Language
- Graphical examples
- Appositions Versus Double Subject Sentences – What Information the Speech Analysis Brings to a Grammar Debate