Commas with Interrupters Part Two: Appositives

The Rule:

Since an appositive is a type of sentence interrupter, set off the appositive with commas unless the appositive is restrictive.

Terms to Know:

Interrupter: A word, group, or phrase that interrupts the flow of the sentence

Appositive: A noun or noun phrase that renames/describes the noun it is next to (it can contain adjectives, but it must contain a noun in order to be an appositive)

Restrictive: Necessary to the meaning of the sentence


Examples:

Craig, my older brother, helped me get into my new home.

  • “My older brother” is a noun phrase renaming Craig. Since it isn’t restrictive (you don’t have to know he is my older brother to know whom I am referring to since I name him), you need commas around the appositive as it interrupts the flow of the sentence.

My brother Craig is doing well.

  • While “Craig” is a noun phrase renaming “my brother,” it is restrictive so you do not use commas. Craig is restrictive—essential to the meaning of the sentence—because I have two brothers, so when I just say my brother, it is unclear whom I am referring to.

My new car, a red convertible, was my pride and joy.

  • “A red convertible” is a noun phrase describing “my new car.” It is not restrictive, so you put commas around it.

I got into an argument with Roger, a hot-tempered tennis player.

  • “A hot-tempered tennis player” is a noun phrase describing/renaming Roger. Since it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and comes at the end, you put a comma before it.

The Fairfax Museum, a remodeled building downtown, is showcasing some artifacts from the ’60s.

  • “A remodeled building downtown” is a noun phrase describing/renaming the Fairfax Museum. Since it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and comes in the middle, you surround it with commas.

A notable author, Ray Bradbury has written many science fiction novels and short stories.

  • “A notable author” is a noun phrase describing/renaming Ray Bradbury. Since it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and comes in the beginning, you put a comma after it.

 


Practice:

  1. My high school drama teacher Mr. Criman retired this year.
  2. My cousin Erica got married last week.
  3. One of his favorite relatives Aunt Susan shared a funny video.
  4. Diana my friend has to get her work done.
  5. I like my friend’s bike a dark green BMX.
  6. A loud barker the neighbor’s dog kept them up all night.
  7. David Copperfield a famous magician is coming into town.
  8. My friend Diana has to get her work done.

 



 

Answers:

  1. My high school drama teacher, Mr. Criman, retired this year.
  2. My cousin Erica got married last week. (Since Erica identifies which cousin, it is a restrictive appositive; therefore, no comma is needed)
  3. One of his favorite relatives Aunt Susan shared a funny video. (Since Aunt Susan identifies which relative, it is necessary—a restrictive appositive—so no comma is needed.)
  4. Diana, my friend, has to get her work done.
  5. I like my friend’s bike, a dark green BMX.
  6. A loud barker, the neighbor’s dog kept them up all night.
  7. David Copperfield, a famous magician, is coming into town.
  8. My friend Diana has to get her work done. ( In #4, the appositive was “my friend,” and since you don’t need to know Diana is my friend to understand the sentence, the appositive is nonrestrictive and needs a comma. But in this sentence, “Diana” is the appositive and it is telling you which friend, so it is restrictive and does not take a comma.)

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