Appositive Adjectives

What are Appositive Adjectives?

In essence, appositive adjectives are pieces of bonus or extra information. They appear after the nouns they modify and are usually encased by commas or dashes. Appositive adjectives normally come in pairs or groups of three. Although they aren’t encountered much in speech, they act as effective rhetorical tools in writing when done expertly. They always appear next to or near the words to which they relate. In writing, appositive adjectives are intentionally placed to slow the reader and focus on something important in the text. Here are some examples of appositive adjectives in sentences:

  • The beach, darkened and quiet, loomed in the background.
  • Annoyed and smirking, Jason entered the room.
  • Macondo, remote and arid, wasn’t a place that appealed to settlers.
  • Joyous and triumphant, Jessie stepped forward to accept the award.
  • Gregory thought that the house – graying, weather-beaten, and rickety – wouldn’t sell much.
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Appositive Adjectives Rules

You can’t know appositive adjectives unless you write or read them. By large, punctuation and placement are what set them apart from other adjective types. They’re generally preceded and followed by commas or dashes. Dashes are used correctly only when the appositive adjectives follow the noun. With commas:

– They sold the flowers, vibrant and cheap, in the middle of the square.
– Her team members, friendly, positive, and helpful, gave her valuable advice on her first day.

With dashes:

– The apple – bright red and inviting – was too powerful for Snow White to resist.
– Your emails – cheerful and long – are the reason I maintained my sanity over there.
Appositive adjectives typically appear in pairs or a series of more than two adjectives. However, sticking to pairs is always recommended. Using lengthy strings of modifiers adds tedium to the reader. – The Banshee, folkloric and intriguing, was used to represent the new brand of amplifiers.
– Holly thought that the hotel – remote and aged – fit the requirements of the photo shoot.
– Their indoor courtyard, bright and breezy, was a popular space for parties. 
Appositive adjectives may appear singly, but they are often accompanied by prepositional phrases. – Julius – excited about the arriving guests – sprinted towards the gate. 
Uncomfortable with the sudden attention, Taylor stepped out for some fresh air.
– Kit, offended about the blame-pointing, wordlessly left the conference room.
Appositive adjectives don’t follow personal pronouns but can go before them. Determined and passionate, she organized a full-blown protest in less than two hours.
Lost and lonely, I made myself slowly to any place that would take me in.
Entertaining by nature, he is always the life of the party.
Appositive Adjectives Rules Table

Examples of Appositive Adjectives

1. Shaylene, interesting, beautiful, and toned, quickly succeeded in modeling.

2. The house that she bought – small but picturesque – suited her personality well.

3. Angered by the accusation, Samson punched the wall and left quickly.

4. Young and reckless, he made several bad choices during the trip.

5. The research – complex and demanding – required a lot of planning and legwork. 

6. Drunk and dizzy, Glenn struggled to lift his head.

7. Moved after hearing the speech, Kerran stood up and gave Anita a hug.

8. My psychiatrist, succinct but insightful, was a great help in my recovery.

9. The football player – looming and burly – hurled his shoulder at the bouncer. 

10. Startled by the sudden noises from the basement, Eileen screamed.

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Appositive Adjectives Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Appositive Adjectives

Combine each group of sentences into a single sentence by changing information into appositive adjectives. You can supply coordinating conjunctions in some instances, but make sure you retain the base sentence. More than one correct way of combining sentences is possible.


The building is over a hundred years old.

  • It is charming.
  • It is popular.


The building, charming and popular, is over a hundred years old.

or Charming and popular, the building is over a hundred years old.

Begin the exercise here:

1. Simon’s watercolor postcards sold out first.

  • They were affordable.
  • They were self-painted.

2. Vivi celebrated by treating herself to a full spa experience.

  • She was overjoyed by her promotion.

3. Petja took her dog to the vet.

  • It was overweight.
  • It was sickly.

4. Daimon quit and spent a year traveling the world.

  • He was tired of his corporate job.

5. The water was too beautiful to resist.

  • It was refreshing.
  • It was aquamarine.


1. Simon’s watercolor postcards, affordable and self-painted, sold out first.

2. Overjoyed by her promotion, Vivi celebrated by treating herself to a full spa experience.

3. Petha took her dog – overweight and sickly – to the vet.

4. Daimon, tired of his corporate job, quit and spent a year traveling the world.

5. Refreshing and aquamarine, the water was too beautiful to resist.

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Appositive Adjectives List

The following is a list of adjectives according to categories.

quantitysome, eight, little, much, enough
opinionstrange, comfortable, excellent, brilliant, nasty
sizepuny, short, immense, little, enormous
physical qualitystylish, attractive, bald, muscular, pretty
shaperound, steep, crooked, broad, curved, 
age/conditiongeriatric, young, modern, oldish, senile
colorred, green, blue, yellow, orange
origin/ethnicity/subjectMexican, Canadian, Vietnamese, Hindu, Korean
materialbronze, clay, gold, silk, cloth
purposegardening, writing, hiking, sleeping, riding
Appositive Adjectives Categories Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Adjectives make your writing more creative and vivid. Hardly any other parts of speech can match their linguistic power, for they enable simple sentences to become something spectacular.

Furthermore, adjectives have a seemingly endless string of similar words or synonyms that vary in intensity. Mastering them can grant your writing a high level of articulation. For example, the word “magnificent” has a stronger meaning than “good.” Being “hungry” isn’t as bad as being “famished.” Using adjectives well showcases a great level of fluency.

Appositive adjectives are mostly used as rhetorical tools in different types of writing such as short stories, marketing copy, and so on. Writers use them to slow the reader down, compelling the readers to focus on particular portions of their writing.

To develop these skills, maintain them, and gain further progress, you need to engage in purposeful reading, which means reading the text while actively assessing the style and syntax used by the writer.

Think of your favorite writers and ask yourself why you like them. It’s probably less about the subjects they write about and more about the way they hold your interest and make you feel emotions. See, published writing is never accidental. It goes through many steps of editing, not just for grammar but for literary technique.

Studying sentence structures and applying them to your own language usage are valuable habits that will mold you into a powerful writer. Consistency is key. Soon you’ll learn how to use all types of adjectives to make your writing pop. Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand Participial Adjectives and Predicative Adjectives.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

In English (and perhaps in many other languages as well), writing in itself is an advanced skill. Using appositive adjectives effectively as literary devices is a showcase of even higher proficiency. The typical errors that students make, then, have something to do with the purpose of appositive adjectives in their writing. Below is a comprehensive list describing the uses of appositive adjectives in writing, along with sample sentences that can exhibit their proper application. Studying this list will help you avoid incorrect use and aid you along the linguistic nuances of appositive adjectives.

Directing Focus. Appositive adjectives allow you to highlight any detail or information in your writing.Smart, focused, and driven, Jared quickly advanced his career after college graduation. 
– Gab’s twin brother – identical but taller – walked in.
Customized to fit the space, the fireplace became the room’s focal point.
Highlighting Cause and Effect. Appositive adjectives relate the information found in the sentence to the detail found in the adjectives themselves.– Millie, introverted and awkward, can’t stand to stay long in crowds.
Consistent and unwavering, her performance astounded everyone in the audience. 
Drowning in great debt, the freelance hub eventually closed.
Improving content and rhythm. In some instances, two or three adjectives are used to identify, modify, or describe a noun. Some add even more. Such a long string of modifiers should be eliminated or shortened. If left alone, they’ll sound or look monotonous and tedious, which can distract the reader from the text and cut their interest effectively. However, putting some of the words in an appositive phrase can make the sentence read less awkwardly and drive your intention closer to home.Let’s look at the following sentence:

– Although the new associate advertising coordinator was vibrant and upbeat, his demeanor is getting on everyone’s nerves.

This sentence is too wordy and ineffective. Let’s change it into a sentence with an appositive phrase and still maintain the base sentence in the revision.

Vibrant and upbeat, the new associate advertising coordinator was getting on everyone’s nerves.
Establishing a connection or parallel. Appositive adjectives can compress an entire story into one sentence by functioning correlatively alongside coordinate conjunctions such as but, either/or, and so on.– Neither too cold nor too warm, Cassandra existed like an enigma to men.
– The officer, grinning and fidgety, was actually nervous about getting caught on camera.
Kind in front of the cameras but an absolute meanie in real life, Lorelie finally got exposed.
Appositive Adjectives Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Appositive Adjectives

The most effective learning strategies for appositive adjectives include:

  • Mastering the basic rules of adjectives.
  • Maintaining a reading habit.
  • Regular writing practice.
Learning StrategiesExplanation
Language ListsLists have always been a valuable resource for ELLs. They can show the different types of adjectives and include sample sentences, making their particular functions and rules easier to recall and apply when using English.
Language ExposureGetting exposed to literary, audio, and video materials that show how native speakers use the English language in various contexts, topics, and areas of expertise can help broaden your vocabulary. It’s almost impossible to learn adjectives without knowing their synonyms. Hence, substantial exposure can improve vocabulary and fluency in a significant way. It will help you articulate your thoughts and ideas well.
Language ExchangeMake an effort to use what you’ve learned in consistent interactions with fellow learners and English-speaking friends. Eventually, you’ll sound more confident and natural, and use English with ease.
Appositive Adjectives Learning Strategies
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Appositive Adjectives Frequently Asked Questions

While both have similar functions as they modify their subjects in some capacity and are both commonly set off by commas, appositive nouns rename subjects or nouns in a sentence and don’t describe the nouns directly. On the other hand, appositive adjectives provide more information about the subject or nouns by modifying or describing them.

Study the following examples for comparison.  

Appositive nouns:

– Tommy, our CEO, wanted to expedite the transfer of bonds.
– The rainforest, a protected area, has not been fully explored.
(note: treat appositive nouns as alternative names for their subjects)

Appositive adjectives:

– The rainforest, isolated and vast, has not been fully explored.
– Tommy, impatient and stubborn, wanted to expedite the transfer of bonds.

No. Adjective clauses have nouns and verbs in them and act as dependent clauses. Appositive adjectives, however, do not. At best, appositive adjectives are phrases. They can appear as a series of words but are comprised mainly of adjectives and, in some instances, prepositional phrases. 

Below are 10 categories of adjectives in order:

1. quantity
2. opinion
3. size
4. physical quality
5. shape
6. age/condition
7. color
8. origin/ethnicity/subject
9. material
10. purpose

The recommended number of multiple adjectives describing a single noun is two or three. More than that and the sentence loses its effectivity. Sentences with more than three adjectives modifying one subject are longwinded, boring, and unnecessary.

If you can’t avoid using, for example, five adjectives in a sentence, you can separate a pair of adjectives by turning them into appositive adjectives. It sounds like a simple solution, but in reality, it takes practice and a certain level of fluency.

Postpositive adjectives are adjectives that come immediately after the nouns they modify. There are three ways that they can appear. Take a look at the information below:

1. Institutionalized expressions: Princess Royal, Office Elect. For example, “The Princess Royal is scheduled to attend the midnight ceremony.”
2. Modifying pronouns: someone else, someplace exciting. For example, “We need to find somewhere close for storage.”
3. Together with descriptive adjectives in the superlative degree: the latest model possible, the worst party imaginable. “I swear, he’s the slowest man alive!”

Adjective clauses are dependent clauses that modify nouns and pronouns by answering the questions “what kind” or “which one.” Furthermore, an adjective clause comes with a noun and a verb but not a complete thought.

Here are some examples:

– Daniel, who drove his new car to work, found it difficult to find parking.
– The backpack that Orris lost at the center was found in the morning.
– Mira’s secret, which everyone at work tried to keep, was revealed at the meeting.
– These are the artists who are participating in the contest.
– Are you familiar with the book that Soraya kept mentioning during homeroom?

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