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  1. Good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style--all are basic writing skills.
  2. Basic writing skills--good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style-- can be learned by almost everyone.

In (2) the series of appositives are "good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style". So by definition "The appositive is a noun or noun phrase that modifies another noun" so it means appositive comes after the subject right?

But my doubt is can we use appostives before a subject like in (1) and in (1) which is the subject(i.e noun) that modifies the noun phrases "Good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style" ?

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    An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. Your examples aren't "appositives" - they're just lists (of three nouns identifying thee different basic writing skills). An example of a true appositive would be, for example, The OP here, a new visitor to ELL, was mistaken about the meaning of the word "appositive". – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 2 '17 at 13:37
  • Sorry, I am not new to ELL and I have already mentioned the definition of appositive in question itself. When I was reading about Sentence Patterns I got doubt on this. So in Pattern 6: An Introductory Series of Appositive. Example:The depressed, the stressed, the lonely, the fearful—all have trouble coping with problems. Pattern 7: An Internal Series of Appositives or Modifiers. Example: Basic writing skills--good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style--can be learned by almost everyone. So could you please answer to my question now? – Nandy Sep 2 '17 at 13:56
  • It was only an example usage. Obviously I drew a mistaken conclusion from the fact that you only have 1 rep point, but I see now that you've been a member here for 11 days. Having said that, I can't help thinking it's rather odd that you asked three earlier questions over a week ago, and no-one here has upvoted any of the questions or answers. So I'm off to have a look at them now. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 2 '17 at 14:03
  • Any answers???! – Nandy Sep 3 '17 at 10:58
  • Consider The brothers , (Tom, Dick, and Harry), all died. I'd say that in its entirety, the parenthetical element there is indeed an "appositive", but each of the three names is simply an item in a list. But your first example is equivalent to recasting my example as Tom, Dick, and Harry are [all] brothers [who have died], and I just don't think "appositive" is a relevant term in such constructions. But I'm not a big fan of nitpicking over details of grammatical terminology, so I'll leave it to someone who's more interested in that sort of thing to provide a formal "Answer" here. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 3 '17 at 18:09
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Yes.

Appositives most commonly appear after the noun or pronoun they rename, as in these examples from Pattern 7 from The Art of Styling Sentences (I have boldfaced the appositives and italicized the noun they rename):

He learned the necessary qualities for political life -- guile, ruthlessness, and garrulity -- by carefully studying his father's life.

My favorite red wines -- Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir -- blend well in making California rosé wines.

The basic writing skills (good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style) can be learned by almost everyone.

However, as shown in these examples from Pattern 6 of the same book, appositives can also appear before their associated noun or pronoun. In these cases, the appositive usually starts the sentence:

The depressed, the stressed, the lonely, the fearful -- all have trouble coping with problems.

Here, "the depressed", "the stressed", "the lonely", and "the fearful" are appositives renaming the subject "all".

Gluttony, lust, envy -- which is the worst sin?

"Which" is the pronoun being renamed here.

The link to Grammar Bytes! given by FumbleFingers in the comments includes another example:

When the appositive begins the sentence, it looks like this:

A hot-tempered tennis player, Robbie charged the umpire and tried to crack the poor man's skull with a racket.

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  • parentheticals are not appositives. And gluttony, lust, envy are not appositives either. They do not rename anything. They are three different things. – Lambie Jan 26 at 19:46
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Your examples are both good, although I wouldn't say that an appositive "modifies" anything. It's simply a rephrasing.

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1) Good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style--all are basic writing skills.

There is no appositive in the sentence above. There are three noun phrases, all different. There are three different things, not the same things.

2) Basic writing skills--good vocabulary, knowledge of grammar, sense of style-- can be learned by almost everyone.

In the sentence above, there is no apposition.

Here are FumbleFingers' examples:

1) Tom, Dick and Harry, the brothers [brothers renames Tom, Dick and Harry]

2) The OP here, a new visitor to ELL [a new visitor renames the OP]

3) My Aunt, Mary Elizabeth Trosper [the name renames My Aunt]

An appositive has to RENAME a thing, but not be a completely different thing. An appositive is NOT three items starting a sentence.

Bananas, apples and oranges were on the table. [no appositive]

Bananas, an edible fruit, were on the table. edible fruit renames bananas]

Appositions can be used anywhere in a sentence to rename an existing person or thing.

  • The orange man, aka the US president, is unfit for office.
  • That scum ball doctor, a true pervert, molested those girls.
  • A large dog, man's best friend, can be a lot of work.
  • Any cat, a furry feline creature, is great for petting.

Appositives always come AFTER the noun they accompany and rename them or restate them. They are often at the beginning of sentences, but not always.

John was coming down the driveway in red RAM truck, a very heavy car.

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Virginia Tufte in her book Artful Sentences, talks about "inverted" and "initial" appositives, as in "A lonely boy, Coleridge retreated into books...and fed his mind with adventures so wild and fancies so morbid that he often feared the coming of the night" so I'm not convinced that appositives "Always come AFTER the noun."

What she doesn't say, but I think she should--and the examples provided above from The Art of Styling Sentences have further emboldened me to think so-- is that these inverted appositives have to be at the beginning of sentences and the noun that follows the appositive has to be the subject of the sentence. Otherwise, I have no answer for the student who might say to me, Well why isn't Coleridge in apposition to "A lonely boy" instead of the other way around?

I'm curious, has anyone else heard the term Tufte uses,"inverted appositive"?

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  • embolden, not enbolden – Lambie Jan 26 at 19:47
  • Yegads, I actually think I have always thought it was spelled "enbolden." In other words, I can't even pretend it was a typo. Thank you, editing now. – laflemm Jan 28 at 3:05

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