An appositive is a noun or a pronoun, often with modifiers, set beside another noun or pronoun to explain or identify it.

In the following examples, the appositives have been underlined and the noun being explained or identified is in italics.

Your friend Bill is in trouble.
My roommate’s car, a beat-up Chevy, is rusting in our driveway.
The English professor, an expert on Old English, gave a lecture about Chaucer yesterday.

An appositive usually follows the word that it explains or identifies, but it may also precede it.

A bold leader, Kyle is known for his ability to get people involved.
A talented dancer, Molly often won the lead in our recitals.

Punctuation of Appositives

If the appositive can be taken out without changing the meaning of the sentence, set the appositive off with commas.

Judy Bailey, the past president of NMU, left town.

If you can’t take the appositive out without changing the meaning of the sentence, then just leave it alone.

Past president Judy Bailey left town in the wake of expected trouble.

Compiled and edited from Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).