If your teacher has instructed you to use appositives in an essay, be confident: You're probably using them already. An appositive is a word or group of words that identify, explain of highlight a nearby noun or pronoun. An appositive usually follows the noun or pronoun but can come before. Learn how to use appositives in sentences both ways.

After a Noun or Pronoun

Insert appositives after nouns or pronouns to add interest, information and vitality to your writing. For example, the appositive makes a big difference in this sentence: “John Hoffman, who was voted the most likely to succeed in high school, has been arrested nearly a dozen times for stealing car parts.” The appositive here helps to underscore the contrast between John's projected future and the reality of present day. While not necessary to comprehend sentences, appositives like this one add meaning and context to sentences.

Highlight a Subject's Importance

An appositive that is placed before a noun or pronoun clearly indicates its importance. It signals that the writer deliberately wants the reader to digest the appositive before the noun or pronoun. Judge the difference it makes to use an appositive at the very beginning of a sentence in these examples: “Usually a fast, nonstop talker, Betsy sat silent on the couch all night,” and, “A generous friend who is known to share, Bill horded the entire bag of pretzels,” or, “A diehard Cubs fan since he was 5, Ben suddenly switched his allegiance to the Chicago White Sox at age 16.” These appositives, in addition to infusing interest in the sentences, also add drama and highlight a contrast.