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Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers
by Carol Culver Rzadkiewicz   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, March 07, 2008
Posted: Friday, March 07, 2008

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Do you know the difference between a dangling modifier and a misplaced modifier?

 

Dangling Modifiers are phrases that begin sentence and simply dangle there with no clear subject.

 

Examples:

 

  1. While hiking along with our camping gear, a bear crossed our path.
  2. Having enjoyed the movie, it was late and time to go home.
  3. To do well in any endeavor, determination is necessary.

The subject is not clear in any of the sample sentences. In the first sentence, the bear seems to be the subject, but bears are not known for hiking along anyone’s camping gear. J In the second, the reader is not told who enjoyed the movie; it certainly wasn’t “it.” In the third example, it is not clear who must be determined.

 

Corrections:

 

  1. While hiking along with our camping gear, we saw a bear cross our path.
  2. Having enjoyed the movie, we realized it was late and time to go home.
  3. To do well in any endeavor, people must possess determination.

Misplaced modifiers are phrases that are out of place, and, as a result, are modifying the wrong subject.

 

Examples:

 

  1. She left the 19th century bench to be sold at auction with the antique dealer.
  2. The general spoke to the troops who had survived the attack with apparent emotion.
  3. The farmers in the Midwest almost harvested 20 million bushels of wheat last year.

In the first sentence, it sounds as if the bench and the dealer are going to be sold together. In the second, it sounds as if the “apparent emotion” of the troops enabled them to survive the attack. Finally, in the last example, it seems as though the diary farmers, instead of harvesting wheat that totaled 20 million bushels, did not harvest any wheat at all. 

 

Corrections:

 

  1. She left the 19th century bench with the antique dealer to be sold at auction. 
  2. The general, with apparent emotion, spoke to the troops who had survived the attack.
  3. The farmers in the Midwest harvest almost 20 million bushels of wheat last year.

Practice:

 

Complete the following sentences by supplying appropriate subjects for the dangling modifiers. Change the wording as necessary to convey the intended meaning of the sentence.

 

  1. Having finished the meal, it was time to go to the movie.
  2. Built on a solid foundation, it will endure for a long time.
  3. To be a good parent, it is necessary to be responsible for your children’s actions.
  4. While chatting with my husband, a roach scurried across the kitchen. 
  5. Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address while traveling from Washington to Philadelphia on the back of an envelope. 

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