What Is Parenthesis in Apposition? (with Examples)

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Parenthesis in Apposition

Parenthesis in apposition is a word (or words) used to rename or re-describe a nearby noun (usually the noun immediately to its left). Like any parenthesis, it can be removed without damaging the grammatical structure of the sentence. For example (parenthesis in apposition shaded):
  • Peter, my mate from school, won the lottery.
  • (The parenthesis describes "Peter," the noun to its left.)
    (Note: "my mate from school" = "Peter")
  • My dog, Ollie, loves cake.
  • (The parenthesis renames "My dog," the noun to its left.)
    (Note: "Ollie" = "My dog")
Parenthesis in apposition examples


The term "in apposition" means "the same." Therefore, when a parenthesis is the same thing as what it follows, it is called "parenthesis in apposition" or an appositive.
Appositive

An appositive is a noun, a noun phrase, or a noun clause that sits next to another noun to rename it or to describe it in another way. (The word "appositive" comes from the Latin for "to put near.")

Read more about appositives.

Parenthesis

A parenthesis offers additional information to a sentence. It is offset with brackets, commas, or dashes (called parenthetical punctuation). If a parenthesis is removed from a sentence, the sentence is still grammatically sound.

Read more about parenthesis.
Read more about punctuating a parenthesis.

Examples of Parenthesis in Apposition

Here are some more examples of parenthesis in apposition (shaded):
  • Kent Oliver — the only professional jockey from Jersey — won his first race on Tuesday.
  • (In this example, dashes have been used as parenthetical punctuation.)
    (Kent Oliver is the professional jockey. The parenthesis is the same the thing it follows. This is parenthesis in apposition.)
  • At midnight last night, Skip (a guard dog for Bonds Ltd in Bury) hospitalized two intruders who broke into the company yard.
  • (brackets used as parenthetical punctuation)
    (Skip is the guard dog. This is parenthesis in apposition.)
  • Jamie Buxton, who fainted in church with alcohol poisoning during his wedding, apologized to his wife for ruining their wedding.
  • (Here, commas have been used as parenthetical punctuation.)
    (This is not parenthesis in apposition. The parenthesis is not the same as the thing it follows.)
  • Paul, on the other hand, is considered extremely trustworthy.
  • (Commas have been used as parenthetical punctuation.)
    (This is not parenthesis in apposition.)
  • Prices in Alton, a small town only 25 minutes from London, are soaring.
  • (This is parenthesis in apposition.)

Why Should I Care about Parenthesis in Apposition?

Here are two noteworthy points related to parenthesis in apposition.

(Point 1) Choose the right parenthetical punctuation.

The prominence of your parenthesis and the flow of your sentence depends on your choice of parenthetical punctuation. Here is a summary of the guidelines:

commas
(pro) normal-looking sentence
(con) commas are often confused with other commas in the sentence

brackets
(pro) parenthesis easily seen
(con) brackets make official letters look a little unorganized

dashes
(pro) parenthesis easily seen
(con) dashes look a little stark

(Point 2) Offset your parenthesis with two parenthetical punctuation marks.

Remember that a parenthesis is offset with two parentheses, two commas, or two dashes. If a parenthesis ends a sentence, the second one in the pair is dropped. This is the only time parenthetical punctuation marks do not appear in pairs. It is a common mistake (especially with commas) to use just one.
  • John, my mate from school has landed a job with Google.
  • (Another comma is required after "school.")
  • Mink — a terror for chicken farmers will travel miles in search of a meal.
  • (Another dash is required after "farmers.")
Read more about parenthetical punctuation.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What is an appositive? Choosing commas, dashes, or parentheses Using colons for introductions Glossary of grammatical terms