How to Identify Appositives for the Praxis Core Exam

By Carla Kirkland, Chan Cleveland

Make yourself familiar with appositives for the Praxis Core exam. In addition to all the non-independent clauses and phrases that can be added around the main independent clause, there’s one other type of extra information that can be added to a sentence, and it’s extra-tricky because it gets inserted into the main independent clause. It’s called an appositive.

You may have been under the impression that the main subject and verb of a sentence — which may not be right next to each other — won’t be separated from each other by any commas, because commas are used to separate all the extra clauses and phrases from the central independent clause.

And that’s true, unless the sentence contains an appositive. The good news is that, although they fall into an inconvenient location within the sentence, appositives at least have the decency to be set off with punctuation.

Examine the following sentences, in which the main subjects and main verbs appear in boldface:

Jack, my youngest cousin, is a carpenter.

The movie, though it wasn’t completely faithful to the book, made interesting choices.

Most of the restaurants in this neighborhood, while they may not deliver or stay open very late, pride themselves on their affordability.

In all three examples, an additional descriptive phrase — an appositive — is inserted into the middle of the independent clause, between the subject and the verb. Appositives are usually set off with a pair of commas, though they can also be set off with a pair of dashes, as in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Think of an appositive as being similar to a parenthetical remark but not quite inconsequential enough to actually appear in parentheses.

It’s also worth noting that an appositive often (though not always) could easily have been placed elsewhere in the sentence: The first example sentence could just as easily have read “My youngest cousin Jack is a carpenter” as “Jack, my youngest cousin, is a carpenter.” But either way, the subject is still Jack and the verb is still is.

When you’re searching for the main subject and verb of a sentence, you may also have to lift out an appositive that splits the independent clause, in addition to brushing away all the other types of extra clauses and phrases that come before and after the independent clause.