Apposition : When one noun follows another to describe it, the noun which follows is said to be in apposition to the noun which comes before it.

Adjectives : Words that are used to describe a noun.

Aren't they both ( Adjectives and Apposition ) similar ?

  • 2
    To put it plainly, an appositive is a noun phrase that says something "equivalent" to the noun before it. An appositive is not an adjective, which modifies its noun. For example, in My best friend, Mary, likes reading, Mary is an appositive, i.e. Mary "is" my best friend. Jun 1 '15 at 14:45
  • 2
    Generally, an appositive defines a specific case of the noun it follows. The example given by @DamkerngT. shows this very clearly. In that example, Mary is a named instance of the more general noun "friend". Adjectives, on the other hand, describe the noun they modify. Again going with the example, "My best friend, Mary, likes reading," best is an adjective which gives more information about the noun "friend", while "Mary" is an appositive naming a specific friend for the sake of clarification.
    – R Mac
    Jun 1 '15 at 15:32
  • There are further ways to modify nouns; consider noun adjuncts, determiners, and intensive pronouns for example.
    – choster
    Jun 1 '15 at 15:46

Adjective- a word like green, hungry, impossible, which is used when we describe people, things, events etc. In numerous fixed expressions, an adjective is placed immediately after the noun it governs:

Examples: attorney-general, body politic, court martial. proper.

  • These are to be distinguished from cases in which an adjective just happens to follow the noun it governs

Adjectives are used in connection with nouns and pronouns.

Examples: a green apple; She's hungry.

========================================================================= In the sentence - Sir James Murray, the lexicographer, was born in Hawick.

  • The second element, the lexicographer, is appositive to the first, Sir James Murray.

Similarly- The highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook, is called Aorangi by the Maoris.

  • The second element, Mount Cook, is appositive to the first, The highest mountain in New Zealand.

The appositive is not an adjective. In both cases the second element syntactically duplicates the first. This is the most straightforward type of apposition in English.

(Reference-Fowler's Modern English Usage)


An apposition is a noun/ noun group, after a noun, giving additional information to the first noun and separated with commas.

  • 1 The capital of France, Paris, is the largest city of France.

  • 2 Paris, the capital of France, is a beautiful city.

In 1 the apposition is Paris, a single noun, in 2 the apposition is the capital of France, a noun group. An appositon is always a noun/noun group, it is not an adjective.

Appositions can be derived from inserted explaining sentences which are shortened as

  • 1a its name is Paris

  • 2a it is the capital of France

Of course, if you call everything that modifies a noun an adjective you can easily get confused. Adjective is a word class and the term should not be used as a cover name for articles, adjectives, relative clauses and appositions, which all modify a noun.If you need a cover name you could use noun modifier or attribute (the Latin term), I use subelement to a noun.


There is such a thing as an appositive adjective. In the clause, "John was a big boy, tall and strong, the adjectives "tall" and "strong" are appositive adjectives.

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