What is Apposition? Definition, Types and Examples

What is Apposition? Definition, Types and Examples

It is good to know you are here again to learn something new which I have titled: What is Apposition? Definition, Types and Examples. I am sure you make use of this grammatical concept almost all the time without knowing what we call it. In this post, I will take you through the definition of Apposition with copious examples; I will also show you the types of Apposition we have in English and finally the semantic implication of Apposition.

What is Apposition? Definition, Types and Examples

Let us start by looking at the different definitions of Apposition…

Apposition: A Definition

I want to believe there have been instances in which you have had to describe a person, a concept or a thing in another way in the same sentence for the purpose of clarity, emphasis or for the purpose of providing more information. If you have done this, then you have made use of Apposition. What then is Apposition?

Apposition is the process by which an item is given a second occurrence in another form; we can see it as a form of reformulating such an item. We can also describe Apposition as the relationship between two noun phrases; that is, the relationship between two usually contiguous nouns or noun phrases that denote the same person or thing and have the same relationship to other sentence elements.

Geoffrey Leech defines Apposition as: ‘a relation between two constituents such that the following statements normally apply:

  • apposition exists between two noun phrases;
  • the two constituents in apposition are in a relationship which could be expressed by the verb be;
  • the two constituents are juxtaposed and combined in a single noun phrase, which can act, for example, as subject or object of a sentence.’

Let us exemplify what we have said so far…

Examples of Apposition

  • Barack Obama, the first Black President of America, spent two terms in office.
  • Our former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, is an academic.
  • My friend, a seamstress, sews for the president.
  • Her son, a doctor, practises in her friend’s hospital.
  • The Senator, an articulate activist, won the election for the third time.
  • Our English teacher, Mr James, has travelled to the UK for further studies.
  • Billy Graham, the leading figure in U.S. Evangelicalism since World War II, is the most celebrated evangelist in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.
  • John Calvin, a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation, founded Calvinism.
  • The German theologian and religious reformer, Martin Luther, was born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483.
  • The truck driver, a chain smoker, died of acute bronchitis.
  • His beautiful wife, Lynda Mariah, received an award of recognition for her commitment towards orphans.
  • The new movie, Black Panther, grossed over $136m at its premiere.

Appositional Phrase Examples

In the examples given above, the following elements are appositives; you can also refer to each of them as an appositional phrase:

  • …the first Black President of America…
  • …Dr. Goodluck Jonathan…
  • …a seamstress…
  • …a doctor…
  • …an articulate activist…
  • …Mr James…
  • …the leading figure in U.S. Evangelicalism since World War II…
  • …a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation…
  • …Martin Luther…
  • …a chain smoker….
  • …Lynda Mariah…
  • …Black Panther…

Let me quickly inform you that the term ‘appositive’, is the grammatical description of words or phrases that refer to the same person or thing and have the same relationship to other sentence elements.

An of-phrase

Leech also submits that we could also term an ‘of-phrase’, that is, a phrase ‘in which ‘of’ links co-referential expressions’ as appositive. Examples of such phrase include:

  • the city of London
  • the pressure of managing four jobs
  • a nagging fear of being broke
  • the shame of losing the match
  • the thought of staying alone

Indicators of Apposition

There are certain phrases or linguistic items that indicate apposition; we can also call such items ‘markers of apposition’. They include the following:

The list is not limited to the phrases above; there are many other phrases of reformulation which are indicators or markers of Apposition. Let us look at the different types of Apposition we have in English…

Types of Apposition

There are two major types of apposition in English and these two have subdivisions under them. But let us first examine the two major types:

Restrictive Apposition

Non-Restrictive Apposition

Let us consider these two types severally:

Restrictive Apposition

In the Restrictive Apposition, the second appositive is part of the first (a necessary part) appositive. In other words, it serves as a qualifier of the first appositive. Let us exemplify this with the following sentences:

  • My friend the engineer is here
  • My younger sister an accountant is a generous person.
  • The Dean an erudite professor could not perform an online transaction.

Basic Manifestations of the Restrictive Apposition

The Restrictive Apposition has three basic manifestations. Let us look at each of these manifestations.

A situation in which the first appositive is the more general expression and is preceded by a definite article, determiner or definite modifier.

For instance:

  • The popular opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti, died several years ago.
  • The Christmas, 25th of December, is celebrated globally.
  • This car, a Chevrolet, costs a fortune.
  • The plane of American president, Air Force One, is one of the biggest.
  • The city, a replica of London, never sleeps.

The second appositive is preceded by a determiner and is more general than the first appositive.

For example:

  • Alexander the Great was a war strategist and an Emperor.
  • Paul, the Apostle, wrote more than half of the New Testament.
  • Julius Caesar the famed Roman general and statesman studied rhetoric.
  • Street urchins the aggressive individuals have been sent off the streets of the town.
  • Michael Jackson’s album the thriller earned an unprecedented eight Grammy awards.
  • Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and scientist, is one of the greatest philosophers.

This manifestation is like the first one but with the omission of a determiner.

Consider these examples:

  • Popular opera singer Luciano Pavarotti died several years ago.
  • King of Macedon Alexander the Great studied under Aristotle.
  • 50 cents half a dollar is all it cost.
  • Minister of information Lai Muhammed visited Spain
  • Vice president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is an accomplished lawyer.

Non-Restrictive Apposition

In the case of Non-Restrictive Apposition, the second appositive marked by comma is not necessarily part of the first appositive; rather, it provides information on it. Let look at some examples:

  • The popular opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti, died several years ago.
  • The Chair of the company’s Board, a successful banker, will retire soon.
  • Rolls Royce, a car associated with royalty, is very costly to maintain.
  • The driver of the lorry, which hit the electric pole, has been arrested.
  • The eagle, a graceful and strong bird, is the national symbol of America.
  • Johnson, my pleasant neighbour and friend, is writing a book.
  • His wife, a mother of three grown children, manages his business endeavours.

There is something more I need to show about the Non-Restrictive Apposition before we go to some other issues and this will lead us to consider this subtopic…

Semantic Implication of the Non-Restrictive Apposition

The Non-Restrictive Apposition has some implications when it comes to the meaning it conveys. We shall discuss these semantic implications under three headings which are Equivalence, Attribution and Inclusion. Let us look at these, one after the other beginning with the first implication which is that of…


Talking about equivalence, what does it mean? It simply means the second appositive is equivalent to the first one. Look at this illustration:

  • The first Black American President, Barak Obama, is a Democrat.
  • The 12 pure vowels of English, the monophthongs, are easy to memorise.
  • George Washington, first President of the USA, is one of the most important leaders in the history of the nation.
  • George Orwell, Eric Arthur Blair, died at an early age.
  • New York, the largest city in the United States, is the home of the United Nations, and the centre of global finance.


In the case of attribution, the second appositive is a quality of the first one. Consider these examples:

  • John’s friend, a pleasant fellow, came on a visit last week.
  • Carnie, a composed and detailed girl, wants to be a doctor.
  • Jacob Zuma, a perceived corrupt president, has resigned.
  • Wole Soyinka, the white-haired Professor of African Literature, is widely travelled.
  • Dag Hammarskjöld, a seasoned mediator and negotiator, died in a plane crash in 1961.


Here, the meaning of the second appositive is included in the first one. In other words, when you look at the second appositive, its meaning has been included in the first appositive. I’m sure it is clear to you. Now let us use some practical examples to exemplify this point.

  • Lincoln’s only daughter, Stephanie Lincoln, has gained admission to study Medicine.
  • The two boys, one a cousin, are not serious about their work.
  • His submissions, say on welfare policy for the staff, are usually ignored.
  • The two women, one a lawyer, attended the same school.
  • Two of the expensive cars in her garage, one a Ferrari, were sold off.


We make use of Appositions very frequently and it is important to understand its meaning, structure and types. This post has done just that and I am sure you have learnt something tangible. Check out some other posts on this site for your information and education. I hope to hear from you as well; send in your comments and questions.



Leech, G. (2006) A Glossary of English Grammar. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press


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