I do not think "ancient and forgotten" would be associated with the subject "he", but I still want to be sure.

I'm learning about appositive adjectives, and I saw this on a website:

The castle, ancient and ruinous, stood on the edge of the cliff.

I am curious, if I were to switch the adjective around to the end, would it be considered misplaced? I feel that this second example would be, but the example sentence in the title question would not be, since I am referring to the mountain.

The castle stood on the edge of the cliff, ancient and ruinous.

  • In the sentence inj the title I read "ancient and forgotten" as a description of him, not the mountain, perhaps because the idea of a person being forgotten seems more reasonable than a mountain being forgotten. It sounds like he is an old hermit.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 17, 2020 at 1:19
  • 'The castle stood beside the old monastery, which was itself monumental, ancient and ruinous' shows that ambiguity could creep in. In your example, there's no problem. These orderings are grammatical, and your deferred appositive has a good majestic/historical flavour. // You might like to read Nordquist's article on the traditional treatment of appositive adjectives – it's clear and thorough. Jan 17, 2020 at 15:57

2 Answers 2


Ancient and forgotten are not misplaced and neither would ancient and ruinous be in the second example.

These are called predicative adjuncts, and may occur as modifiers in clause structure or as supplement. Supplements are not restricted as to their position whereas modifiers are more like complements, especially in cases where they occur frequently with a particular verb (CaGEL p263):

He died young.

? Young, he died.

He was born rich.

? Rich, he was born.

Here, the predicative adjuncts young and rich would seem out of place if moved to initial position. However, supplements have no such restrictions:

Angry at this deception, Kim stormed out of the room.

Kim stormed out of the room, angry at this deception

Your two examples are supplements and hence their position is not restricted.

Ancient and forgotten, he lived on the edge of a mountain.

He, ancient and forgotten, lived on the edge of a mountain.

He lived on the edge of a mountain, ancient and forgotten.


HEALTH WARNING: I stand by this answer, but I can find no dictionary online pedagogical website which confirms it. Not does the one offering examples from literature, other than one from Beowolf. However, I offer this view, for what it is worth.

Yes, the two adjectives are (and must be) in apposition to the subject. No, they are not misplaced: the (call it) displacement is literary. The adjectives are delayed to give a particular weight and mood to them, as if the old man they describe has become like the lichen-encrusted, lonely rocks among which he lives. But the writer achieves this with powerful economy by the delay of these adjectives. You might get away with it in a speech, if you were making an impassioned (and so poetic) appeal for the man's rescue. But it would not be expected for instructions to the helicopter pilots sent to retrieve him, or a factual report.

Your question is therefore interesting, in raising a question about why so many definitions and the associated examples seem confined to cases where the appositives are actually adjacent to their noun, giving rise to this apparent (but, I am claiming, incomplete) rule.

  • Is "special" in the following sentence an appositive adjective too or whether it is something else, since it seems to be a parenthetical: "Besides these essential adverbials... there are also specific adverbials that describe other, special, kinds of qualifications..."? Feb 16, 2020 at 15:55

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