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Dangling Modifier

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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A modifier literally means something or someone that modifies or adjusts something. But when it comes to English language and more specifically English grammar, a modifier is a word or phrase that describes or tells something more about one special word that it is used for.

In today’s article, we will discuss about dangling modifiers and how to correct a dangling modifier in a sentence.

Modifier

Any word or phrase that is used in a sentence with the purpose of giving meaning to or describing about a single word or concept is called a modifier is English grammar.

Example:

Baby, astonished, opened her eyes wide.

In the above simple sentence, the word astonished is a modifier which describes the quality of the noun i.e. baby in this case.

Placement of a modifier

The placement of a modifier in a sentence is of vital importance and whenever you are using any modifier be sure to put it near the object that it is used to describe. It can be placed before or after the object.

Example:

Being late for dinner, Sara apologized to her mom.

Now in the above example, being late for dinner is the modifier that gives more detail about the doer of the action i.e. Sara and hence it is placed before Sara.

Dangling Modifier

Now that we know well what a modifier actually is and where to place it in a sentence, lets come to our real topic, the dangling modifier.

Sometimes, in writing the writer is unable to put the modifier and the doer well together which leaves the reader confused. Some inexperienced writers put the modifier in the sentence but forget to place the person or thing that the modifier is intended to describe, thus leaving the modifier dangling there in a sentence without a purpose.

A dangling modifier is a modifier that is present in a sentence but the purpose of which is not fulfilled because the thing it describes is missing in the same sentence.

Example:

Thirsty, the water was finished in a single gulp.

Now take this example and see for yourself. The modifier in this sentence is thirsty. Can you find a suitable subject or object in the sentence which thirsty describes? No. Because there isn’t one. The writer failed to use the modifier correctly in the sense that he used the modifier but did not mention the subject. Thus thirsty is a dangling modifier.

The correct way of writing the above sentence is:

Thirsty, James finished the water in a single gulp.

The addition of the subject James converted the dangling modifier into a correctly used modifier that describes one characteristic about James i.e. his thirst.

 

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