Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Appositives

May 22, 2021

Definition: An appositive noun or phrase is restrictive (also called essential) if it narrows down the word it modifies. It tells which one of the noun you are writing about. A restrictive appositive noun or phrase is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. If you remove a restrictive appositive phrase, the sentence will sound like it is missing something. It is not separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

My friend Amanda is on the honor roll again.
(You have several friends. Amanda restricts which friend is on the honor roll. If we take out the phrase, we don’t know who you are writing about.)

Definition: An appositive noun or phrase is nonrestrictive (also called nonessential) if we know exactly who the writer is referring to when the appositive is removed. Nonrestrictive appositives simply add extra information, and they need commas around them.

Amanda, my friend, is on the honor roll again.
(We know Amanda is on the honor roll again, even if we don’t know she’s your friend.)
My best friend, Amanda, is on the honor roll again.
(In this case, Amanda is nonrestrictive because you can only have one best friend. We don’t need to know her name is Amanda in order to know who you are writing about.)


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