A Guide To Parts Of Speech

Noun Phrases and Clauses

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Appositives and Appositive Phrases

The word "apposite" means "side-by-side" or "alongside."  When you

use one noun or noun phrase to rename another, it's called an

appositive.  To "rename" simply means to re-identify, always with more

specific detail or information. When an appositive noun and its

corresponding modifiers come together, it's called an "appositive

phrase."  In the following example, all the appositive phrases are

underlined, and the appositives, themselves, are in bold:

The man who discovered Pluto, American astronomer Clyde

Taunbaugh, named the planet after Pluto the dog, his daughter's

favorite Disney character.

A noun usually isn't a modifier, but given the descriptive nature of renaming, you might think of

appositives as modifiers in disguise. In most cases (but not all), appositives are set off by commas.

Nouns In Apposition (Compound Nouns)

A closely related concept to appositive phrases is the use of nouns in apposition:  two nouns that are

bound together in a single concept and always appear together.  We also call these "compound nouns,"

but "compound" could also refer to the way two or more sentence elements are conjoined (as in

compound subjects, or compound sentences), so "nouns in apposition" is a better descriptor even

though it's a more complicated term.

Nouns in apposition can be open, hyphenated, or combined in their form:


car parts

hand movement

recognition award









In the development of any language's common usage, the above is a progression:  open nouns in

apposition eventually become hyphenated, then closed.  Words such as "leather jacket" will eventually

be spelled "leather-jacket" and then, ultimately, "leatherjacket" (though the latter is already used as a

name for a kind of fish).

Direct Address

A special kind of appositive in English is the direct address, in which the implied "You there" of

imperative and other sentences is renamed.  Consider these examples:

Charlie, what's our destination?

Professor, please help me with this problem.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

Welcome, delegates, to the 2012 National Democratic Convention.


Secondary nouns are fairly simple to diagram.  If they are in appositives, then they go in parentheses

right next to the nouns they rename, and their modifiers go right underneath them.  If they are nouns in

apposition (compound nouns), then they stay together as one concept.  If they are a direct address,

they "lurk" just outside the diagram.  Here's a sentence that includes all three:

Professor, I think that Harold, the student in the cotton shirt, is confused by the assignment.

Noun Clauses

So far, the other sections under "Nouns" have all focussed on how individual words, names and titles

fill the role of a noun.  However, sometimes entire clauses answer the question "What?" or "Who?"  In

the following sentence, WHAT is the object of the action?

I want only what I'm owed.

If we use this sentence to pose the question, "What do I want?" then the answer is "what I am owed"--

the very "thing" wanted.  Since a noun is a person, place, thing or concept, then "what I am owed"

must, in its entirety, be a well-and-true noun.

Noun clauses are, by nature, subordinate clauses:  they cannot stand on their own as independent

clauses do.  They begin with noun clause markers, subordinators that include many of the same

words that serve as Interrogative and Relative Pronouns. The noun clause markers are as follows:

that, what and which; who, whom, and whose

if; whether; how; when; where; why

however, whatever, whenever, wherever, whichever, whoever, whomever

Quite often, noun clauses don't have to begin with any markers.  Rather, a noun marker is implied.  For


I know you mean well.

The sentence above has an implied noun clause marker, "that":

I know that you mean well.


Just like any other noun, an noun clause can fill the role of a subject, an object, or a complement.

However, it's easy to confuse a noun clause with a relative clause or an adverb clause because they all

can begin with the same set of words.  Remember, however, what questions a noun asks and you will

have an easier time recognizing the difference.  Consider the following:


ADVERB CLAUSE: Wherever you go, there you are.


RELATIVE CLAUSE:  I pity the man who doesn't know love.


NOUN CLAUSE:  He believes that the world will end in 2012.

The three sentences above may sound alike in some ways, but when you diagram them, their

differences become clearer.  Diagramming a noun clause is as simple as putting, both, the subject and

predicate in the same spot a noun or pronoun would go; however, in order to economize the use of

space, it is elevated.  Furthermore, whether or not the noun marker is used in the sentence, it should

be included on the diagram above the noun clause, and connected by a dashed line, as shown below: