Remember The Second Comma

Akeem Lasisi

A lot of people know how to use the comma when they are listing a number of items. Or can you think of anybody who will write I bought a bag a pillow a charger and a battery  instead of I bought a bag, a pillow, a charger and a battery? Not even a primary school kid will do that. So, almost everybody is an expert in listing items with the aid of a comma.

But when it comes to using it in apposition, a chronic problem rears its head. Pardon my use of the big term, apposition. I always want to avoid such in our discussions here.

In a grammatical construction, when we place two elements, usually noun phrases, next to each other, with both referring to the same person or thing, the arrangement is called apposition. So, it is the use of a noun or noun phrase to give additional information on another similar expression. When this happens, the term containing the added message is called appositive:

Chief Brown, Adigun’s landlord, is very generous.

The dogs, especially the males, are very active.

In the examples, ‘Adigun’s landlord’ and ‘especially the males’ are appositives.

There are two types of appositives. These are restrictive and non-restrictive appositives. The restrictive appositive provides information that is essential to identifying the phrase in apposition.  As a result, the meaning of the sentence will change if you leave it out. The implication is that restrictive appositives are not set off by commas.

Consider these examples:

My brother Dr. Ighodalo lives in the US. (This means that I have more than a brother, but I am restricting my statement to the one named Dr. Ighodalo).

Arsenal player Ozil is contemplating leaving the team. (If you remove Ozil from the statement, it becomes barren.)

On the other hand, the information that the non-restrictive appositive provides for the sentence is not critical. It is additional, so, if the appositive is removed, it will not injure the construction or the message it carries. In this case, it must be clearly marked with two commas – or brackets/dashes. This is the focus of our lesson today: that you should always separate non-restictive appositives with two commas.

My brother, John, will represent me at the event. (The appositive identifies which brother.)

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is on a three-day visit to Kano State.

Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, is on a three-day visit to Kano State.

In the three sentences, the appositives are marked by two commas – one before, the other after.

The most important thing to note is that you should always clearly put the two commas that mark the appositive. It is only when it comes at the end of the sentence – not in the middle – that only a comma is required.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed held a meeting with leading film-makers in Lagos on Sunday. (Wrong)

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, held a meeting with leading film-makers in Lagos on Sunday. (Correct, two commas).

They met Mr. Abel, an engineer. (Correct).

Unfortunately, many people leave out the second comma, making the expression flawed or ambiguous. When you do that, it is like locking the front door at nght when it is time to sleep, while leaving the backdoor open.

Mr. Johnson, from whom I collected the book has travelled to Canada.  (Wrong)

Mr. Johnson, from whom I collected the book, has travelled to Canada. (Correct)

Daniel’s brother, Peter is not a friendly person. (Wrong)

Daniel’s brother, Peter, is not a friendly person. (Correct)

Points to note

  1. The appositive can be a noun:

His younger sister, Jane, is not around.

  1. It can be a phrase:

Bello, his half brother, may also attend the party.

  1. It can be a clause:

The system, the type that may be too expensive for us to practise, has been recommended by the panel.

  1. Brackets and hyphens can be used in place of the commas that mark the appositives. When you use them, remember that they also come in pairs:

The Minister of Information and Culture – Alhaji Lai Mohammed  held a meeting with leading film-makers in Lagos on Sunday. (Wrong second dash missing).

The Minister of Information and Culture – Alhaji Lai Mohammed – held a meeting with leading film-makers in Lagos on Sunday. (Correct)

Bello (his half brother may also attend the party. (Wrong, missing bracket)

Bello (his half brother) may also attend the party. (Correct)

  1. Don’t mix commas with dashes:

Dr. Seidu, the former managing director – is an upright man. (Wrong)

Dr. Seidu, the former managing director, is an upright man.

  1. A relative clause can also serve as an appositive. When this happens, ensure the commas or dashes or brackets are also complete:

Democracy, which eluded Nigeria for many years, is still struggling to survive.

The Senate President, who was a former governor of Kwara State, used to be a member of the Peoples Democractic Party.


Answers to last week’s assignment

  1. I learnt that they are choosing the candidate tomorrow.

            (a) choosen (b) choosing (c) chosen (d) choose

  1. Please, don’t … my shirt.

            (a) dirt (b) rough (c) dirtify (d) roughen

  1. The panel has recommended that the managing director … on compulsory leave.

            (a) go (b) goes (c) have to go (d) was going

Those who got all the answers right

Anim Solomon, Kella Kelechi, Amoo Shina, Odunayo Awe, Ihekwoaba Ndidi, Riliwan Adio, Agnes Udofia, Toyin Oyewoga, Rotimi Oyedele, Oyaleke Nathaniel, Oluwadarasimi Obayemi, Bankole Dayo, Chris Thompson, Ajayi Olaseun, Ademola Adedokun, Abdulwadood Okatahi, Akodu Mudashiru, Adu Olugbenga, A. T. Perepou, Adetoyebi Yemisi,  Adebayo Ajagun, Kolawole Kareem, Fasasi Kehinde, Tayo Hunpe, Muoka Johnny, Halimat Awonuga, Joseph Ogunbayi, Chukwudi Iheanacho, Bankole Oluwatomiwa, Tunde Egbedokun, Bello Adunni, James Agatha, Yinka Alli- Owe, Omotayo Ijaola, Sunday Oyesiji, Akinyemi Taiwo, Tolztaj, Yekeen Mutiu, Ifeanyichukwu Ibekwe, Y.O Babaola, Akande Akeem, Muhammed Oriyomi, Oluseyi Aluko, Bolarinwa Nurudeen, Oludare Olufade, Okeowo Owalabi, A.B Adejumo, Akande Ijebu, Oladipo Isaac, Seyi Adewuyi, Roseline John, Wole Ogunsade, Bolarinwa Hodonu, Oyekan Oluseyi, Demurin Sunday, Roland Olisa, Uwejeta Ejovwokeoghene, Fasooto Ademola, Chisara Jonah,  Joel Ayansola, Akin Gandonu, Medina Ochayi, Chris. A. Oji, Tunde Egbedokun, Yemisi Oluyole,   David Uduak, Egbeita Body-Lawson, Olamide Idris, Moshood Akangbe, Raphael Daramola, Godwin Ogbonna, Odunayo Awe and Abdumajeed Adebayo.


Others who did well

Ishola Oluwatoyin, Idris Wali, Olufunke Musa, Charles Ikoh, Oladimeji Sunday, Kolapo Barakat, Alaketu Ololade, Adeleke Anjaoluwa, Lawrence Okwe, Ariba Oluwaseyifunmi, 4rm Awka, Yetunde Akande, Awoluyi Sessi, Gabriel Opute, Adeleke Taiwo, Biyi Adekoya, Faith Oderinde, Rotimi Jaiyeoba, Agboworin Fapusekeji, Ibukun Emmanuel, Opute Dorcas, Okwori Victor, Abdulmajeed Bello, Gani Oladipo, Onochie Ngozichukwukan, Adeyemi Ogunjuwon, Ngwu Uchenna, Adegboyega Micheal, Ogunlade Sunday, Raji Deborah, Alifia Sunday , Adelugba M S, Onyiwe Chukwuka, Ogazi Paul, Alifia Sunday, Whensu J. H, Goodluck Chukwuemeka, Ilori Titilola, Nat Garmvwa, Femi Femkas, Ayodele Joseph, Daramola Oloniruha, Oladipupo Olanrewaju, Arimiyau Oyesiji, Opeagbe Atinuke, Adeola Faith, Adeyinka Stanley, David Osita, Nseobong,  Brown, Aremu Adebowale, Abdwakil Ashafa, Stephen Igwe, Ugochuku Godfrey, Gbenga Daramola, Akinwa Orinisan, Arokoyo Sylvester, Adedayo Folake, Aremu Afolabi, Emmanuel Oni, Kafar Adewale, Japhlet B.V, Foluke Ogunsanya, Chima Ukaegbu, Sulaimon Baleeqs, Faith Oderinde, Chris. A. Oji, Fasasi Mozidat, Tunde Akodu, Akoesienwa Abraham, Ogunleye Femi, Blessing Aghojare, Odinaka Michael, Folasade Makinde, Wale Afolabi  and Timothy Olufayo.


Home work

  1. Have they … the match?

        (a)   beginned (b) begun (c) began (d) beganned

  1. The … was specially prepared.

        (a) mother-in-law (b) mother’s-in-law (c) mothers’-in-law (d) mother-in-law’s

  1. Has the policeman gone?

        (a) Yes, he has not gone. (b) No, he has gone. (c) No he has not gone. (d) Yes, he may not have gone.


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