Dangling Modifiers

In grammar, a dangling modifier (also called a dangling participle) attaches itself to a word different from the one the writer apparently meant. It may be intended to modify the subject of a sentence, but due to word order seems to modify an object instead.

Participles or participial clauses may be at the beginning or the end of a sentence and a participial clause usually is attached to the subject as in "walking down the street (clause) the man (subject) saw the beautiful tre es (object)". However, when the subject is missing or the participle attaches itself to an object in a sentence the clause is seemingly hanging on nothing or an entirely inappropriate noun. It thus becomes a dangling participle:

  • Walking down Main Street (no subject), the trees were beautiful.

Here the "walking down" participle seems to connect to "the trees" because it has no subject, when on reflection it really should connect to the invisible speaker of the sentence. He or she is the one walking down the street (and finding the trees beautiful).


Strunk and White's The Elements of Style provides another kind of example, a misplaced modifier (another participle):

  • I saw the trailer peeking through the window.

Presumably, the speaker means that he or she was peeking through the window, but the placement of "peeking through the window" makes it sound as though the trailer were peeking through the window.

  • As president of the kennel club, my poodle must be well groomed.

This gives the impression that the poodle is the president of the kennel club. Again the subject, in this case "I", is missing (as it is "my" poodle). The best way to improve this kind of sentence is to paraphrase it:

  • Because I am the president of the kennel club, my poodle must be well groomed.

The following video gives an additional explanation of danging modifers:


Source: Wikipedia
Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:19 PM