Video (from Youtube): Misplaced and dangling modifiers (part 2) by Shaun Macleod at Smrt English (new tab). (Watching time: 4m:23secs)
A modifier that has no (semantically) logical connection to the main phrase.
A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that does not logically connect to the main phrase. Here are some examples of dangling modifiers:
* Being tired, the trip came to an end. * (Note: Asterisks signal examples of poor constructions.)
* After reading the initial study, the article remained unconvincing. *
* Having fallen into the pool, the party was ruined. *
Below is the intended meaning of the sentences once corrected. Note: the subject of the main independent phrase must be the subject of the modifying phrase.
Being tired, we called the trip to an end.
After reading the initial study, we found the article unconvincing.
The guests having fallen into the pool, for them the party was ruined.
Long phrasal modifiers
When a long section of sentence disrupts the flow by pushing its way between two important parts of the sentence.
It is important not to place a modifying phrase where it disrupts the sentence, especially if it is a long phrase.
* John, after nearly falling into the pool with almost all of his clothes on, left quickly. *
The following are better options.
John left quickly, after nearly falling into the pool with almost all of his clothes on.
After nearly falling into the pool with almost all of his clothes on, John quickly left.
Complete the quiz items below to see if you have understood this lesson. Then click the blue arrow at the bottom of the page to check your answers.
Instructions: Hover or tap the questions below to see the reason for the answers given in the quiz.
1. Select Yes to show which meansings are present in this sentence, otherwise select No or Not clear.
The library has several books about dinosaurs in our school.
There are dinosaurs in our school Yes ✔
There are only a few books in the library. No ✘
There are books in the library about our school No ✘
The school has a library Unclear ✘
Why: The placement of "in our school" adjacent to the word "dinosaurs" gives the impression that there are dinosaurs at the school, and that the library (which library unclear) has books about them.
2. Why is this sentence funny?
Organ donations from living donors reached a record high last year, outnumbering donors who are dead for the first time. Excerpt modified from Language Log, July 07, 2004
It's funny because it implies that people may die more than once. ✔
Why: This humorous meaning is the consequence of poor modifier placement is this sentence: "Organ...[etc]... outnumbering donors who are dead for the first time". The modifier should be placed beside the word/s it is modifying, in this case "outnumbering".
3. Select the options which correct the dangling modifier below.
After reading the initial study, the article remained unconvincing.
After reading the initial study, I found the article unconvincing. ✔
After I read the initial study, the article remained unconvincing. ✔
Why: There needs to be a logical (human) subject for the reading of the article, or likewise, for finding the article unconvincing. Either of these options can fix the problem because they include a logical subject, "I".
4. Select the correct sentence.
❍ Looking for my keys, I came across a large spider
❍ I came across a large spider looking for my keys.
Looking for my keys, I came across a large spider ✔
Why: It's all about the placement of the information in the sentence. One of these sentences has a ridiculous meaning.