Dangling Modifiers

Misplaced Words and Phrases

In English, the order of words is essential to understanding. An adjective or adverb modifies or describes  a word by appearing next to it in a sentence.  If you separate the modifying word from the word it modifies, some confusing and unintended meanings may result. (PurdueUniversity website). They could be quite humorous in connotation. Spotting them might make you laugh.

DANGLING MODIFIERS

Consider this sentence:

Having finished her assignment, Mary [doer of the action] turned on the TV.

“Having finished” states an action but does not name the doer of that action.  In English sentences, the doer must be the subject of the main clause that follows. In this sentence it is Mary. She seems logically to be the one doing the action (“having finished”), and this sentence, therefore, does not have a dangling modifier.

Now consider this sentence:

Having finished her assignment, the TV was turned on.

Having finished is a participle expressing action, but the doer is not the TV set (the subject of the main clause): TV sets don’t finish assignments. Since the doer of the action expressed in the participle has not clearly been stated, the participial phrase is said to be a dangling modifier.

Example of Dangling Modifier

After reading the original study, the article remained unconvincing.

(The way this sentence is written it reads like the doer of the action is “the article” but that is impossible – so the sentence MUST be revised so that the subject follows as the subject of the main clause- did not read the original study.)

Revision

After reading the original study, I [ proper subject] find the article unconvincing.

Practice

1. A woman passed by, leading a Springer spaniel in a long black dress.

 Note the error: It seems as though the Springer Spaniel [dog] is wearing the black dress because the modifier is placed right after it.

Correct the sentence by putting the doer of the action and the modifier together.  You will find the answers to these at the end of the article.

  1. After trying the combination several times, the lock finally opened.
  1. Disappointed that vacation would soon end, September came all too quickly.
  1. He went to the library wearing a leather jacket.
  1. After reading the paper, the telephone rang.
  1. Working all afternoon, the foundation was completed.

Characteristics of Dangling Modifiers

They most frequently appear at the beginning of sentences (often as introductory phrases or clauses) but can also appear at the end.

The experiment was a failure, not having studied the lab manual.

Possible Revision

They failed the experiment, not having studied the lab manual.

Characteristics of Dangling Modifiers
They most frequently appear at the beginning of sentences (often as introductory phrases or clauses) but can also appear at the end.
The experiment was a failure, not having studied the lab manual.
Rule to Remember
Modifiers (an adjective or adverb) always go next to the word they modify.
For more information about modifiers, please go to the following websites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_modifier

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/597/1/

Answers to practice:
1. A woman,in a long black dress,  passed by leading a Springer Spaniel .

2. After trying the combination several times,the man finally opened the lock.

3. Disappointed that vacation would soon end, he/she felt September came all too quickly

4. He , wearing a leather jacket, went to the library.

5. After he/she read the paper, the telephone rang.

  • 6. Working all afternoon, the workers completed the foundation.
Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Modifiers, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: