Description: In this brief article, we will understand what exactly appositives are and cover their usage on the GMAT. Mastering this concept will go a long way towards helping you parse the meaning of sentences in GMAT sentence correction.
Appositives on GMAT
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that is placed next to another noun or noun phase and defines or clarifies the noun or noun phrase it is referring to. In this brief article, we will cover the nature of appositives and their use on the GMAT. To understand this concept better, please take a look at the examples below.
Example 1 – Jack, my best friend, lives in Tokyo.
Here, between the two commas, you have an appositive; it explains the noun that it is adjacent to. The appositive “my best friend” explains who “Jack” is.
Example 2 – My best friend, Jack, lives in Tokyo.
In this case, “Jack” is the appositive and explains who is “My best friend”.
Example 3 – Brussels, a historical city, has many churches.
Here, “a historical city” is an appositive that explains something about the noun that precedes it; it explains that Brussels is a historical city. Please note that appositives are not always presented between two commas, as seen in the following example.
Example 4 – I avoid shopping on the busiest days in the week, Saturday and Sunday.
Here the appositive “Saturday and Sunday” explains what the “busiest days in the week” are.
We will now explore this concept further through a few GMAT-like examples.
Example 5 – The Soviet Union, the predecessor state of the Russian Federation, which had once consisted of fifteen now independent nations, officially dissolved on December 26th 1991.
Here, “which” does not refer to “Russian Federation”; it refers to “Soviet Union”, because “the predecessor state of the Russian Federation” is an appositive that is simply an explanation for what the “Russian Federation” is. For all practical purposes, the appositive is the same as the noun that precedes it. You may be tempted to think that this is a “comma + which” construction wherein “which” refers to “Russian Federation”, but this is not actually the case due to the usage of “of” in the “predecessor state of”. Please remember the “Prince of Persia” example; what is the noun in this noun phrase? The noun is “Prince”; “Persia” is attached to “Prince” through the preposition “of”. Similarly, in “the predecessor state of the Russian Federation”, the noun is “predecessor state”, which in this case is “Soviet Union”.
Example 6 –Charles the II of England, the Eldest surviving child of King Charles I, often called the Merry Monarch, spent nine years in exile after his father’s loss in the English Civil Wars.
Here, “often called” is referring to “Charles II of England”, not “King Charles I”, as “the Eldest surviving child of King Charles I” is an appositive; it merely provides information about the preceding noun, “Charles the II of England”.
Example 7 –Academicians who focus on grammar, a subset of linguists, are formally known as grammaticians.
Here, “are” is referring to “Academicians”, not “linguists”, as “a subset of linguists” is an appositive that provides information about “Academicians who focus on grammar”; thus “are” will refer to “Academicians who focus on grammar”.
Example 8 – The moon of Earth, believed to have been formed from pieces of the Earth, which had been cast into space by a meteor strike.
Here, the word “which” is referring to “The moon of Earth”, not “the Earth”. The reasoning is similar to that of the above examples; “believed to have been formed from pieces of the Earth” is an appositive providing information about “The moon of the Earth”; therefore, “which” is referring to “The moon of the Earth”.
Example 9 – William Wordsworth, a contemporary and close friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was the first poet to take advantage of urbanization and commercial printing technology, gained popularity by extolling the virtues of simple country life.
Here, “who” is not referring to “Samuel Taylor Coleridge”; it is referring to “William Wordsworth”, as “a contemporary and close friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge” is an appositive referring to “William Wordsworth”; this means that for all practical purposes, they are the same noun.
This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to the Experts’ Global Stage One Sentence Correction videos.