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“Sam, my brother, John’s cousin, arrived.”

I think it’s possible that “my brother” modifies “Sam” and “John’s cousin” modifies “my brother”, and I can’t understand why it shouldn’t?

“I love lemon leaf tea.”

As you see, attributive nouns can be chained (“lemon” for “leaf” and “leaf” for “tea”)


  • 3
    My brother explains who Sam is, and John's cousin adds another piece of information about Sam. (Though, if Sam is your brother, John is your cousin too, so it seems an odd thing to say.) Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 8:39
  • 1
    If an appositive noun is separated from the noun it refers to by punctuation like commas it is not a modifier but a supplement. In your example, "my brother" and "John’s cousin" don't modify anything -- instead, they are supplements. My advice to you is to ignore the advice, since it's clearly wrong.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 8:41
  • What relevance does your example "I love lemon leaf tea" have to apposition?
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 8:50
  • @BillJ Because attributive nouns are nouns functioning as adjectives like appositives. Of course, I trust you and it turns out appositives are not modifiers.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 8:54
  • 1
    Compare these appositives: "We went to see the opera Carmen" ("Carmen modifies "the opera") / "The first contestant, Lulu, was ushered on stage" ("Lulu" is a supplement, not a modifier). Note that "Lulu" is set off by commas, whereas "Carmen" is integrated into the NP.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 9:13

1 Answer 1


In an appositive the two things are the same, so it doesn't matter.

Sam, my brother, arrived.

This means that Sam is my brother.

Sam, my brother, John's cousin, arrived.

This means that Sam is both my brother and John's cousin. So the question if which it applies to is irrelevant. It applies to both.

The advice you refer to above is merely instructions for how this particular organization wants you to mark up parts of speech in these circumstances. It doesn't affect the actual grammar. Presumably they just want consistent markup.

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