SMASH LANG LIT: Learn the skills to excel at IB Lang Lit!
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this week we are talking about a very common, very creative and very important stylistic feature – appositional pairs  

first, a simple sentence:

“The sun rose above the hills.”


Let’s try again, shall we?

“The sun rose above the hills, an ethereal light of reds and yellows painting the landscape with a golden hue.”

Much better.

So – the sentence above is an appositional phrase, and this stylistic feature is used a lot in writing. I’m talking novels, blogs, newspaper wrticles, magazines…you name it.

An apposition is when two things are placed side by side to one another.

So an appositional phrase is a sentence in which one phrase – normally containing a noun (the sun, in the example above) – is followed by another, much more descriptive phrase. Another example:

Donald Trump was the US President.

This phrase contains a particualrly odious noun. Let’s turn it into an appositional phrase by adding a second phrase, with more description (uh-oh…)

“Donald Trump was the US President, a nectarine-nuanced, wotsit-haired, fast-food devouring man-child.”

Sorry – think I got a little “political” there. Nevertheless, that is an appositional phrase:

Phrase #1 (containing a noun) = 

Donald Trump was the US President 

Phrase #2 (containing more description, and turning this whole phrase into an appositional phrase) = 

“…a nectarine-nuanced, wotsit-haired, fast-food devouring man-child.”

You will see appositional phrases in your Paper 1 texts (unless you are feeling particularly crazy and decide to analyse the comic strip!).

The appositional phrase is an important writing feature as it allows the writer to:

  • develop any ideas linking to the subject noun in the original phrase (i.e. more descriptions of the sun in my first example, and Donald Trump in my second)
  • include eloquent descriptive vocabulary, communciating to the reader feelings and attitudes and connecting with them on an emotive level (this is pertinent if your text is written about a particularly emotional subject)
  • elevate the overall creativity within their writing

Here’s how you can write about an appositional phrase:

Through the use of an appositional phrase, the writer is able to communciate an emotional connection to the sun with the words “ethereal” suggesting a fantastical fascination.

By creating an appositional phrase, the writer is illustrating to the reader how the sun is like an artist, painting the surrounding landscape.

The use of an appositional phrase allows the writer to amplify their description of the sun, thereby emphasising its natural majesty and power.i

And, never wanting to end one of my posts with a reference to Donald Trump, let’s hear from the master of the appositional phrase, Mr F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.” (The Great Gatsby, p.95)

Beautiful writing.

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