Skip to main content

Dangling Modifiers (Dangling Participles): Some Tips

The participle is a form of verb used in forming complex tense forms or adjectives, adverbs, etc. E.g., working, talking, talked, gone, etc. Present participles end in -ing, while past ones end in -ed, -t, -en, etc.

A dangling modifier is a participle in an absolute clause that may appear elsewhere in the sentence from the subject it modifies. Also, in some cases the subject it modifies may not appear on the sentence at all. The dangling modifier is one of the most difficult constructs in language, often leading to confusion and rewrite.

Having turned the corner, the house came into view.

In this sentence, having is the dangling participle and having turned the corner is the dangling modifier. Here, the subject modified by having turned the corner is not the house. It is only the object. Where is the subject?

Having turned the corner, we saw the house.

We is the actual subject which was omitted in the previous example.

Perfectionists argue that this is a wrong thing to do, since the subject we is not appearing in the sentence, and there is a possibility for misunderstanding that having turned the corner refers to the house, which didn’t and couldn’t turn any corners.

However, in cases of no confusion as to the meaning, it is perfectly acceptable to write such sentences.

Finding good solution to the problem was difficult (for us).

Stricken by malaria, it was good to stick to bed (for me, more often colloquial).

He found Sarah, walking across the street toward the department store.

The last sentence above needs some more clarification. The phrase, walking across the street refers to Sarah, and not he. If it was he who walked across the street, then the sentence should be rephrased to:

Walking across the street, he found Sarah moving toward the department store.

He was walking across the street and Sarah was moving toward the department store.

Walking across the street toward the department store, he found Sarah.

What Sarah was doing is not specified in the sentence.

You can also write:

He, walking across the street, found Sarah.

But the dangling modifiers in the following sentences obviously need to be rewritten.

Having finished studies, the TV was switched on.

Here the absolute phrase having finished studies refers to TV, which didn’t do any studies. And it is a ridiculous sentence, hence. Rewrite to:

Having finished studies, -somebody- switched on the TV.

Somebody must have finished her studies and switched the TV on. Substitute if you know who she is.

The examination was a failure, having watched TV the day before.

Another ridiculous usage. The examination didn’t watch TV the day before. Rewrite to:

The examination was a failure to me, having watched TV the day before.

Remember the rule of thumb: modifier appears right next to or right before the subject it modifies. So, in the above example, the modifier is for me, not for the examination. This sentence may still be under scrutiny, since some people might argue that the true subject is the examination and not me, which is the object. But the subject modified by the dangling modifier is me. So it is perfectly acceptable.

Some acceptable and still scrutinized (for perfection) situations:

To get higher pass percentage, the examination was repeated.

Without knowing the route, it took time to find the address.

These sentences are acceptable to specific situations such as in spoken discourse, though seem to lack something of importance. That something is the subject, which should have been there for the dangling modifier to modify. But the subjects, since are obvious, may be omitted without much confusion.


Popular posts from this blog

En Dash, Em Dash, and Hyphen

We have three types of dashes in use: The hyphen, En Dash, and the Em Dash. In this post, we will see how to use them all correctly. Hyphen (-) The hyphen is the minus key in Windows-based keyboards. This is a widely used punctuation mark. Hyphen should not be mistaken for a dash . Dash is different and has different function than a hyphen. A hyphen is used to separate the words in a compound adjective, verb, or adverb. For instance: The T-rex has a movement-based vision. My blog is blogger-powered. John’s idea was pooh-poohed. The hyphen can be used generally for all kinds of wordbreaks . En Dash (–) En Dash gets its name from its length. It is one ‘N’ long (En is a typographical unit that is almost as wide as 'N'). En Dash is used to express a range of values or a distance: People of age 55–80 are more prone to hypertension. Delhi–Sidney flight was late by three hours. In MS Word, you can put an En Dash either from the menu, clicking Insert->Symbol or by the k

4 Effective Ways to Write About a Boring Topic

  With the plethora of interesting topics to write about, you’re fortunate enough to get the “boring” one. While it can be a pain for many writers to wind up with such a task, I’m telling you now there are ways to make yours more interesting than it is. So if you find yourself stuck with the dreariest topic to fill in a blog about, don’t fret. Here are the four best ways to unburden yourself. 1. Never a boring topic, only a boring writer. Here’s the hard fact: It’s never about the topic being boring. It’s about the writer making it boring. For instance, you’re supposed to write about aquariums. I know, how can you continuously make this topic interesting, right? Well, you’d be surprised just in how many ways you can make it an enticing read. Start by listing down the basic “what”, “where”, “when” and “how” surrounding the topic. You can ask (and research) about “What material was first used to make aquariums?” or even “How the first aquarium was built?” or “What are

5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Writing

As writers, we’re always pushing the envelope to express ourselves better than we did before. However there are times when we plateau, when our writing just doesn’t feel natural. Worse yet, there are times when we can’t get a good paragraph out. Those are times when we start thinking about pushing ourselves and our writing. When you need to tweak and boost your writing up a notch, it’s always good to try something constructive.  For those who could use a couple of tips, here are a few that are sure to help improve your writing and keep it from going stale. 1.Imitate Different Authors If you read other writers for inspiration, why not actively imitate their writing? Once you walk in another writer’s shoes for a bit, writing as they write, you get an idea on how to approach writing about things in ways you normally wouldn’t.  Moreover, it will force you to pay attention to what makes someone else’s writing style unique which, in turn, will help you find ways to make your