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appositives

An appositive is a word or word group placed next to another word to rename, define or explain it. Most appositives are nouns or pronouns, together with their modifiers (if any). Appositives are often added to sentences to give further detail.

Placement of appositives

Usually, appositives follow a noun; however, they can also come before the subject of a sentence. In the examples below, the appositives are in bold font:

  • Visitors enjoy the yearly festival at Manitoulin’s largest reserve, Wikwemikong.
  • Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, is located in Lake Huron.
  • Tourists also like to visit Bridal Veil Falls, one of the prettiest waterfalls in Ontario.
  • A popular hike for beginners, Manitoulin’s Cup and Saucer Trail offers spectacular views.

Punctuation with appositives

Many appositives are set off with commas, but some are not. The use of punctuation depends on whether the appositive is essential to the meaning of the word it is attached to (called the headword).

There are cases when the appositive is too closely related to the meaning of the headword to be separated from it:

  • The name Mindemoya comes from an Ojibwa word meaning “old woman.”

Here, the appositive Mindemoya identifies the headword name: without the appositive, we would not know what name was meant. Therefore, the appositive is essential and is not separated from the headword with commas.

But many appositives give only non-essential information:

  • Visitors enjoy the yearly festival at Manitoulin’s largest reserve, Wikwemikong.
  • Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, is located in Lake Huron.

In the two examples above, the places referred to are already identified by the noun phrase Manitoulin’s largest reserve and by the name Manitoulin Island. Therefore, the appositives give only secondary, additional information and are set off with commas.

An appositive that comes before the subject is always non-essential and must be set off with a comma:

  • A popular hike for beginners, Manitoulin’s Cup and Saucer Trail offers spectacular views.