English Grammar Review
Nouns and Pronouns

Appositives and Punctuation

Here is a vocabulary word people rarely use:

appose = put things side by side to explain

An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that we put close to another noun to provide additional information about that noun.

We met Mr. Nonaka, the scrum master, at the first team meeting.

General Rule: Surround appositives with commas.

Do this primarily when the appositive is not essential to the completeness of the sentence. It's extra stuff—interesting stuff but not necessarily required stuff.

Let's study exceptions to the rule.

John, her husband, agreed.

Here we are highlighting the appositive with bold typeface.

Exception 1: When the appositive is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Her husband Jack agreed.

Assume we all know that she has been married three times, and only one husband was named Jack. The appositive here is needed to identify exactly which husband is meant. So, do not set it off with commas.

Exception 2: When the appositive is spoken as a unit with the noun.

Her husband Joe agreed.

English speakers say, "her husband Joe," easily and quickly as a single idea. If they say, "Joe, her husband," they are saying it that way to subtly express two ideas.

Exception 3: When the appositive is both simple and closely related to the noun.

Jake himself agreed.

More examples:

Your brother Lee has a new phone. They all asked to see it. We consumers must understand its capabilities.

Exception 4: When the appositive can introduce ambiguity into the sentence.

Jesse, her partner, and I agreed. [Are there two people or three people?]

I agreed with her partner Jesse. [clear]

Lesson: Appositives and Punctuation
Module: Nouns and Pronouns
Course: English Grammar Review