apposition suture


Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to define or modify the other. When this device is used, the two elements are said to be in apposition. For example in the phrase "my friend Alice" the name "Alice" is in apposition to "my friend".

More traditionally, appositions were called by their Latin name appositio, although the English form is now more commonly used. It is derived from Latin: ad (“near”) and positio (“placement”).

Apposition often results when the verbs (particularly verbs of being) in supporting clauses are eliminated to produce shorter descriptive phrases. This makes them often function as hyperbatons, or figures of disorder, because they can disrupt the flow of a sentence. For example in the phrase: "My wife, a nurse by training,...," it is necessary to pause before the parenthetical modification "a nurse by training."

Apposition is also a medical term used for describing when two tissues are surgically put together. For example, when two raw edges of a tissue are oversewn and sutured together to create serosa-to-serosa apposition. Apposition is the holding together of the edges of two tissue structures.

Restrictive versus non-restrictive

Apposition can either be restrictive, or non-restrictive, where the second element parenthetically modifies the first.

In a non-restrictive appositive, the second element parenthetically modifies the first without changing its scope. Non-restrictive appositives are not crucial to the meaning of the sentence. In a restrictive appositive, the second element limits or clarifies the foregoing one in some crucial way. For example in the phrase "my friend Alice," Alice specifies to which friend the speaker is referring and is therefore restrictive. On the other hand, in the above example: "my wife, a nurse by training,...," the parenthetical "a nurse by training" does not narrow down the subject, but rather provides additional information about the first element, namely, "my wife." While a non-restrictive appositive must be preceded or set off by commas, a restrictive appositive is not set off by commas.

Not all restrictive clauses are appositives. For example, Alice in "Bill's friend Alice ..." is an appositive noun; Alice in "Bill's friend, whose name is Alice, ..." is not an appositive but, rather, the predicate of a restrictive clause. The main difference between the two is that the second explicitly states what an apposition would omit: that the friend in question is named Alice.

The same words can change from restrictive to non-restrictive (or vice versa) depending on the speaker and context. Consider the phrase "my brother Nathan." If the speaker has more than one brother, the name Nathan is restrictive as it clarifies which brother. However, if the speaker has only one brother, then the brother's name is parenthetical and the correct way to write it is: "my brother, Nathan,...."


In the following examples, the appositive phrases are offset in italics:

  • Arizona senator Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination.
  • I went to the movie with my friend Alice.
  • John and Bob, both friends of mine, are starting a band.
  • An appositive, a grammatically incomplete noun phrase, is sometimes set off by commas, a reader-friendly invention.
  • Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror of Persia, was one of the most successful military commanders of the ancient world.
  • The singer Dean Martin will be performing at the Sands Hotel.

Appositive genitive

In several languages, the same syntax which is used to express such relations as possession can also be used appositively. Examples include:

  • English
    • "Appositive oblique, a prepositional phrase with of as in: the month of December, or the sin of pride. This has also been invoked as an explanation for the double genitive: a friend of mine.
    • The ending -'s as in: Dublin's fair city. This is uncommon.
  • Classical Greek
    • "Genitive of Explanation as in: ὑὸς μέγα χρῆμα hyos mega chrema = a monster (great affair) of a boar (Histories (Herodotus) 1.36)
  • Japanese
  • Biblical Hebrew


  • A comprehensive treatment of apposition in English is given in §§17.65–93 (pages 1300–1320) and elsewhere in:

Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartvik A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language London and New York: Longman, 1985 ISBN 0-582-51734-6

External links

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