My daughter is teaching students at an Academy in the UK, i.e. at High School level, but is setting ambitious targets for grammar and writing. One topic she is developing materials for is Nouns in Apposition.

She has asked me if a particular sentence contains an example of nouns in appostion. Although I had a Grammar School education back in the day, I find it difficult to come up with an answer.

So I believe it's clear that this is an example of nouns in apposition:

I found a few books, the property of the owner.

But what if you say

I found a few books, the pages curled and damp.

It has the same structure as the first example, but this time the second half of the sentence only refers to a part of the books. Is it still an example of nouns in apposition? Or is it something else, maybe a sort of shortened version of 'whose pages were curled and damp'? Is there a special name for this type of usage?

This is my first post to this forum although I have posted previously on the Stackoverflow and Music stack exchange sites so any guidance on etiquette is welcome.

  • Could the second one be an example of an Asyndeton? – Arunkgp Apr 13 '20 at 12:29
  • 3
    A noun or phrase placed in apposition to another identifies the first one. The pages curled and damp describes the books, it doesn't provide information to identify them. – Kate Bunting Apr 13 '20 at 12:33
  • 2
    I'd say that in your first example "the property of the owner" is a supplementary appositive NP, the kind set off by a comma. Note that it can replace the whole supplementation: "I found the property of the owner". In your second example "the pages curled and damp" does not specify "a few books". There are also integrated appositives, e.g. "We went to see the opera Carmen" / "I invited my friend the mayor to dinner". – BillJ Apr 13 '20 at 14:57

I do not think this could be considered an example of an appositive noun. I believe the second noun phrase in the sentence must completely identify the first noun in order for the two to be in apposition. For example, see the sentences below, at


"The pages curled and damp" does not identify the "few books" that "I" found.


This is an apparent case of apposition, but the same meaning is extracted from the following sentence, which results from the original one by only a small modification.

  • I found a few books, the pages of which were curled and damp.

The initial group of words by itself is not a correct arragement of words of the language (is only correct "the curled and damp pages"), and therefore we can't truly say that we are dealing with the usual scheme of apposition, which requires normally (and in most cases) two (correct) noun phrases. The transformation shows that the initial group does not operate as a global identification or global description but instead as a description applying to just a part of the entity represented by the first noun phrase (few books); this construction can't be an apposition then.

"Of which were" is a possibility of addition of words that, while keeping the meaning unchanged, preserves the correctness of the sentence, and seems to be unique; this indicates that one can speak of true ellipsis.

(ref.) (Chalker (1984)) The omission of words is only to be considered ellipsis when the words omitted are “uniquely recoverable”, i.e. there is no uncertainty about which words have been omitted.

There seems to be no other way to reckon with the original form than to call it a verbless clause with an ellipsis of verb and pronoun.

  • "I found a few books, the pages curled and damp." is a perfectly good sentence. However, your suggested version "I found a few books, the curled and damp pages" is not a coherent sentence. – Rosie F Apr 13 '20 at 17:17
  • @RosieF You do not understand my reasoning: I do not suggest the sentence "I found a few books, the curled and damp pages". I only say that in isolation "the pages curled and damp" is just a sequence of words and that it is not a noun phrase of the English language; therefore we dont have two noun phrases and this is what is required in most cases for an apposition, two noun phrases. – LPH Apr 13 '20 at 17:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.