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Other Constructions
as Appositives
 D?sir? Dihau Reading a Newspaper 
in the Garden 1890
by
Toulouse-Lautrec

     In analyzing texts (instead of studying the grammar textbooks), you may agree that other parts of speech and various constructions can also function as appositives. Consider the following and decide if they make sense to you.

Finite Verbs as Appositives

     In the following sentence from the first paragraph of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, the second "lived" is clearly an appositive to the first:

She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on -- lived to have six children more -- to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself.
But verbs that function as appositives do not have to be limited only to those that repeat the exact words. Consider the following sentence:
She struggled, kicked and bit, until her attacker let her go.
The three finite verbs do not denote three distinct acts: "struggled" denotes a general concept which is made more specific in "kicked" and "bit." Can we not then say that the last two finite verbs function in apposition? 

Gerunds as Appositives

     Gerunds can function as appositives:

1.  I brought off a new trick, jumping off Herakles with a standing back-somersault, and landing on my feet. 

2.  Hepzibah was good at most things she did, making pastry and telling stories and keeping poultry. 

In (1), the "trick" is the "jumping off Herakles" and "landing on my feet," and in (2) the "things" are "making pastry," "telling stories," and "keeping poultry."

Prepositional Phrases as Appositives

     A sentence from an essay by George Orwell illustrates how constructions, in this case, prepositional phrases, can also function appositionally: 

  In Gandhiís case the questions one feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity--by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power--and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud?
Is there a better, simpler way of explaining "by the consciousness" and the phrases dependent on it than to say that the phrase is an appositive to "by vanity"?

Subordinate Clauses as Appositives

     Consider the following sentence from "Jack and His Golden Box," (Child-Story Readers: Wonder Stories 3, by Frank N. Freeman, Grace E. Storm, Eleanor M. Johnson, ? W. C. French. Illustrated by Vera Stone Norman. New York: Lyons and Carnahan, 1927-29-36. pp. 43-64.)

Jack told the King his story, how he had lost the great castle, and how he had twelve months and a day to find it
The two subordinate clauses function as appositives to "story." This is somewhat unusual, and I doubt that you will find it explained in most grammar textbooks. Note, however, that it is true. The two clauses do not describe the story; they are the story. Delete "his story" from the sentence, and the two clauses become the direct objects of "told."
An Appositive to a Main Clause?

     In KISS, the purpose of studying grammatical constructions is to explore how the words in a sentence work together to convey meaning. The following is the first sentence in Sharan Newman's "Catherine and the Sybil" (The Mammoth Book of New Historical Whodunits, edited by Mike Ashley. N.Y.: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2006, p. 136). 

The day was clear and cloudless, a rare gift in late autumn.

One could explain "gift" as an appositive to "day," but that explanation doesn't catch the full meaning. The "day" wasn't the "gift"; the gift was the clear, cloudless day. There is, in other words, reason to explain "gift" as an appositive to the main clause.


Mixed Construction Appositives

      The concept of the appositive grows still more once we realize that not all appositives have to be composed of identical parts of speech, i.e., noun and noun, verb and verb. etc. The following sentence was written by a mother who had returned to college: 

Heavy feet followed me on up the attic stairs -- treasure-filled attic, hiding place for Motherís Day cards, carefully printed on pasty colored paper, yellowed packets of letters, saved since World War II.
The identity here is not of meaning, but of the word itself: the adjective "attic" turns into the noun. But is there an easier way of explaining this than as an appositive? In the following sentence, also written by a student, the apposition is between an infinitive phrase and a noun: 
 Left alone, and needled by that nagging sense of guilt, she busies herself cleaning house and lets the "coffee pot boil over," an effective image to describe her anger, which is short lived, as night softens her memory of the harsh morning light and she falls prey to her lust again.


Appositive, or Subject?

     The following sentence is from Mr. Fortune's Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner:

A socket of molten stone rent and deserted by its ancient fires and garlanded round with a vegetation as wild as fire and more inexhaustible, the whole island breathes the peculiar romance of a being with a stormy past.
The psycholinguistic model suggests that most readers will process "socket" as a subject and look for its verb. But they will not find one. They may be tempted to read "rent" as a finite verb, but the following "and" joins it to "deserted," thereby indicating that these are two gerundives that modify "socket" but do not function as its finite verb. "Garlanded," the next "verb," is likewise a gerundive. Thus the reader continues to process the words in the sentence, but instead of finding a verb for "socket," they run into "the whole island."  Although this is not an easy construction to decipher, it becomes apparent that the "socket" is the "island." Thus we have an appositive that precedes the noun to which it is in apposition. One could, of course, argue that "island" is the appositive to "socket," but this would simply be an argument about terminology. Appositives that precede the noun to which they are in apposition are relatively rare, but they do exist.
     For an example of a noun absolute that functions in this way, consider the following sentence from Nina Bawden's Carrie's War:
So many thoughts twisting round, it made her quite giddy.