Apposition

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Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two (or more) linguistic units (typically nouns or noun phrases) are set side-by-side in a sentence, both of them refer to the same person or thing, and both occupy the same place in the grammatical structure of the sentence (i.e., are ‘grammatically parallel’). Linguistic units which satisfy these conditions are said to be in apposition.

Here are some examples with the phrases in apposition underlined:

'The author of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, was born in 1775.’
’Yesterday we visited Burford, a delightful little town in the Cotswolds.’
’The committee awarded the scholarship to the youngest candidate, a sixth-former in a local comprehensive school.’
’This tie was a present from my sister Mary.’

Other examples of apposition include the double objects of factitive verbs such as ‘elect’ and ‘declare’, as in:

’They elected John Smith president.’
’The jury found him guilty of murder.’
’He declared the experiment a success.’
’She called me a liar.’

And examples in which such nouns as ‘claim’, ‘thought’, etc., are followed by an appositive clause introduced by ‘that’, as in

’The court rejected his claim that he had never met the victim.’
’I like your suggestion that we have dinner in the new restaurant.’
’I had no confidence in his assurance that he would pay me next week.’
’She was troubled by the thought that she had hurt his feelings.’

With many examples of apposition it is possible for either of the linguistic units in apposition to be omitted without damaging the essential sense of the sentence. For example, from ‘The author of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, was born in 1775’ we may derive ‘Jane Austen was born in 1775’ and ‘The author of Pride and Prejudice was born in 1775’ both of which are complete sentences, and retain the essential sense of the original. However, not all examples of apposition satisfy this condition, e.g., ’She called me a liar’ and ’The jury found him guilty of murder’.

Etymological note: The word apposition comes from the Latin verb apponere (supine appositum), ‘to put to’, ‘to place beside’, itself a compound of ad, ‘to’, ‘near’ and ponere, ‘to put’, ‘to place’.