Typically, an appositive in a sentence should be signaled with some kinds of punctuation, such as commas and dashes. However, can we eliminate these kinds of punctuation with a view to emphasizing the meaning of the sentence?

For example:

Typically, we write:

1) We, detectives, are always careful to follow every lead.

However, if I shed two commas of the above sentence, will its new transformation be acceptable?

2) We detectives are always careful to follow every lead.

Does the second sentence bring a sense of emphatic expression to the readers, just similar to the example: I myself would never do such a thing?

Thanks for any help

Best regards

2 Answers 2


The simple answer is no. Appositives in general may be integrated (no punctuation) or supplementary (with punctuation). The difference, which is comparable to that between integrated and supplementary relative clauses, is not one of emphasis; rather, the modifying integrated appositive provides identifying information while the supplementary appositive is not a modifier but simply provides additional non-essential information:

[1] We went to see the opera Carmen (integrated appositive)

[2] The local vicar, Dr Emerson, was charged with indecency. (supplementary appositive)

But in your second example, things are different altogether:

We detectives are always careful to follow every lead.

This is not an appositive construction. "We" is a personal determinative, and "detectives" is head of the noun phrase "we detectives", not a modifier, not an appositive. "We" denotes a set containing the speaker, and marks the noun phrase as definite.

Reflexive pronouns like "myself" when used as modifiers can have an emphatic use, as shown in your example, but they are not, of course, appositive.


Yes you're correct. It's the omittance of commas that transforms the sentence to specifically denote that detectives are prone to act this way. Meanwhile, in the first sentence, the addition of detectives serves a more incidental role, i.e.

We are always careful to follow every lead, and we happen to be detectives.

The second one can be paraphrased thusly:

We are always careful to follow every lead because we are detectives.

This link goes into more examples: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/596/01/

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  • As @BillJ says below, 'we detectives' here (OP's second example) does not constitute an appositive construction. 'We detectives' is as coherent as 'you people' or 'those sheep'. A closer paraphrase of (2) is 'My fellow detectives and I are always careful to follow every lead.' (though your suggestion doubtless follows from this). Oct 29, 2017 at 9:45

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