None of them, not a single one of them, tried to do it.

Why is there nothing between "none of them" and "not a single one of them"? They are simply connected by a comma and I don't know how that is possible. Please help.

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    It's alright, it's really alright, but I will leave it to one of the experts to explain why. As you can see from my comment, the second phrase is used to reinforce the first. What this is technically, I don't know. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Aug 11 '15 at 23:58
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    It's an emphatic addition to reinforce the "none". – Graffito Aug 12 '15 at 0:11
  • Is something elided in this sentence? – jojo Aug 12 '15 at 0:11
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    These nouns are in apposition - in effect, not a single one of them clarifies, specifies, or elaborates who or what none of them is. The same device, i.e. apposition, is used in sentences like An exile from his own city, he wandered the desert or We all, every one of us, agree with the motion proposed. – Anonym Aug 12 '15 at 0:16
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    Is it still apposition when I say "None of them, not even my parents, tried to do it"? – jojo Aug 12 '15 at 0:29

What you have are two phrases (not subordinate clauses) that are in apposition to each other. Your are restating or expanding on the first expression: "None of them."

Most often, we think about noun-phrase apposition, from the simplest: "My brother, Chris" to the more complex:

"New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself." -- Joan Didion

But any grammatical element can be put into apposition to any other element. Another example from Joan Didion:

"I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends."

At the end of the second sentence, she puts several adjective clauses in an appositional series.

One clue to apposition is whether you can switch the elements around: "Not a single one of them, none of them, tried to do it." The phrases are equivalent.

Didion examples from BrainyQuote.


subordinate noun clause

whether there's a better name for it, I don't know.

More examples

Bob, the builder with a mustache, went to sleep.

For dinner I would like steak, one that is cooked medium, for dinner.

Bears, animals that will eat you if they get the chance, like bees' nests.

Life, which is a box of chocolates, is unpredictable.

  • Is it still apposition when I say "None of them, not even my parents, tried to do it"? – jojo Aug 12 '15 at 0:36
  • Yes, because the apposition is a noun clause (simplified to be a noun), a subject, a sub-subject. See what I did there? – dockeryZ Aug 12 '15 at 0:38
  • Thank you. I just thought word and might have been deleted like this: None of them, (and) not even my parents, tried to do it. – jojo Aug 12 '15 at 0:47

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