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We all know that an appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. When I saw this line "The law will take effect starting the month of December", somehow I felt the line can also be thought of as "The law will take effect starting the month December" where month and December are in an appositive relation.

That bears the question of this post: Is "The month of December" a type of appositive?

Here is another example on the Internet:

Following the acquisition of Specialty Fasteners & Components (“SFC”) by Clarendon in 2014, the business will now trade under the unified name of Clarendon Specialty Fasteners, with effect from February 1st, 2017.

,where "the unified name of Clarendon Specialty Fasteners" can be thought of as "the unified name Clarendon Specialty Fasteners" or "the unified name, Clarendon Specialty Fasteners", in which case the word "of" can be omitted.

But I got confused because I thought the only way to use the word "of" is something like these lines:

The function of screws. (Screws and function are not the same thing)

A friend of mine.

"The month of December" (where December and month are the same thing) feels like something different from the above two lines and I could only understand it by thinking of it as an appositive structure. Am I thinking this right?

And how do you explain this sentence:

The company follows the guideline of "Customers First".

Is that an appositive structure, or the same structure as in "The function of screws"?

  • Any time you think there is only one way to use a little preposition like of, you're going to find other uses that confuse you. Most of these words have seven or eight possible uses, if not more. – J.R. Feb 10 '17 at 15:45
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As is the case with most prepositions, "of" does not have a single meaning or use.

The use you quite accurately describe as appositive actually consists of having a general noun (in your examples, "month", "name" and "guideline") followed by "of" and a specific noun that defines the previous one. Other examples may be: the game of tennis, a feeling of pleasure, the office of Mayor. Notice, however, that the second noun is not capable of substituting for the first one but only defines it, while appositions proper can typically take the place of the noun head to which they refer. Compare with "John, the butcher, lives next door." We can alternatively say "John lives next door" or "The butcher lives next door." In the syntactic and semantic relationship created by "of" in the examples at issue, substitution does not always work because the two nouns are not mutually identifiable or equivalent.

Other semantic relationships that can be rendered by the preposition "of" are:

  • possession: the leg of the chair
  • referential possession: the date of the exam (the exam has a date, but the date cannot be said to form part of the exam)
  • origin: the citizens of London
  • owner-property: the captain of a ship
  • quality: the value of the ship (the first noun is a quality of the second one) BUT a ship of large size (in this case, the second noun is a quality of the first one)
  • action-object: the sailing of a ship (the second noun is the direct object of the first one, as this phrase involves that somebody sails a ship, or that a ship is sailed)
  • action-subject: the flight of birds (the second noun is the doer of the action expressed by the first one: birds fly)
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