Ladies and gentlemen, let’s celebrate a new word: Appositions! 

What, you’ve never heard of Appositions? Well, no need to worry my dear student. Soon, you’ll completely understand what Appositions are and how to use them. Let’s start the celebration!

What are Appositions?

When we put a noun phrase right after another noun phrase to help describe that first phrase, we say that it's ‘in Apposition’. 

I know there’s a bit too much grammar lingo here so I’ll give you some examples of what I mean. 

  • Mein Bruder, der Lehrer (My brother, the teacher)
  • München, die Hauptstadt Bayerns (Munich, the capital of Bavaria)
  • Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn (Mini, my neighbor’s dog)


In the first example, we have the noun phrase, “Mein Bruder” and it’s followed by another noun phrase, “der Lehrer”. The noun “Lehrer” is not a separate idea. It’s referring to “Bruder” and gives it a better description. We now know that my brother is a teacher. 

Not so bad, huh? 


How do we use Appositions?

When we want to offer more information about a noun, we put the Apposition right after it by adding a comma before and after the Apposition. 

Here’s an example:

  • Mein Bruder, der Lehrer, hat viele Jahre lang studiert. (My brother, the teacher, has studied for many years.)
  • Mini, der Hund, hat ein schönes Fell. (Mini, the dog, has a nice fur.)


See that? The Apposition is between two commas. 


Another important bit of trivia: Appositions usually have the same case as the noun before.

Look at this example here:

Nominative

  • Das ist Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn. (This is Mini, my neighbor’s dog.)
  • Hier ist mein Bruder, der Lehrer aus der Klasse 5B. (Here’s my brother, the teacher from class 5B.)


Accusative

  • Ich habe Mini, den Hund meines Nachbarn, lange nicht gesehen.
    (I haven’t seen Mini, my neighbor’s dog, for a long time.)
  • Sie hat Sara, die Schwester ihrer Freundin, gestern Abend angerufen.
    (She called Sara, her friends’ sister, last night.)


Appositions with Prepositions

We also use the same case for the Apposition when there's a preposition (words like für, zu, mit etc...) in front of the noun. 

Dative

  • Ich spiele mit Mini, dem Hund meines Nachbarn. (I play with Mini, my neighbor’s dog.) 


Accusative

  • Ich kaufe für Mini, den Hund meines Nachbarn, Leckerlies. (I buy treats for Mini, my neighbor’s dog.) 


You can also use more than one Apposition in a sentence. Just make sure you use commas, like this: 

  • Das ist Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn, ein kleiner Welpe. (This is Mini, my neighbor’s dog, a little puppy.)
  • Das ist Katie, die Besitzerin des Hundes, die Frau des Nachbarn. (This is Katie, the dog’s owner, the neighbor’s wife.)


But wait, there’s more! There is one more way to use Appositions. When we have a comparative phrase (comparing one thing to another), which we introduce with “als” (as)  and “wie” (like, as), it’s also in Apposition to the respective noun. 

  • Ich als Student muss sehr viel lernen. (Me as a student I have to learn a lot.)
  • Usain Bolt gilt als der schnellste Mann der Welt. (Usain Bolt is considered the fastest man in the world.)


However, the Apposition could also happen not to be right after the noun it refers to, and be separated by the conjunction ("als" or "wie").

A little break and disclaimer

When you’re learning a new language it’s completely normal that you want to know what everything means in your native language. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible. Languages don't work the same way, so not everything has a direct translation. When you translate everything literally, a lot of it might not make any sense in your native language. 

It’s okay to understand the meaning without having to break everything down into individual parts.

By the way, let me just congratulate you on what a fantastic job you’re doing! 


Where are the Appositions in the sentence?

Appositions usually stand right next to the word they refer to, as we just saw. If we go back to our example with the neighbor’s dog, you can see that the Apposition is right after the noun (or group of nouns, if you happen to use it in some other case.)

  • Das ist Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn. (This is Mini, my neighbor’s dog.) 


Here you can see that “der Hund”, which is our Apposition, comes right after “Mini”, which is our reference point. 

Here are a couple more examples:

  • Gogo, der Freund von Tim, spielt gut Klavier. (Gogo, Tim’s friend, plays the piano well.)
  • Ich sehe Katie, die Nachbarin von Tanja, im Supermarkt einkaufen. (I see Katie, Tanja’s neighbor, shopping in the supermarket.)


Appositional constructions with geographical names

German often uses "Appositional constructions" with geographical names. 

That's just a complicated way to say that we often make small 2-word Appositions to talk about places. Just take a look at these examples, and you'll see what I mean: 

Examples:

  • die Insel Mallorca (the island of Mallorca)
  • die Universität München (the university of Munich) 
  • die Stadt Frankfurt (the city of Frankfurt)

In English, these kinds of phrases use “of” to connect the two nouns, but German just combines them directly.

Sneaky exceptions

Of course, there are always exceptions. In this case, two very common ones that you should be aware of. 

  1. When we have a genitive case in the beginning and an "unqualified" noun (without an article or any adjective) in the Apposition, we usually put it in the nominative case. 

  • Das Auto der Frau, Besitzerin des Restaurants. (The woman’s car, the owner of the restaurant.) 
  • Der Geburtstag seines Vaters, Bürgermeister von München. (His father’s birthday, the mayor of Munich.)


  1. When we use weekdays and dates, which are introduced by the preposition “am” (on), the date can be in either the dative or accusative case. 

  • am Freitag, den 13. Juli (on Friday, the 13th of July)
  • am Montag, dem 30. Januar 2021 (on Monday, the 30th of January 2021). 

And that's it for our exceptions. I don’t know about you, but this lesson was smoother than a... 

Say what?


Okay, I’ll stop right there. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and have some good take-aways about Appositions, the minions of grammar.

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