What is a Modifier?
A modifier is a phrase, word, or clause that alters, limits, adds, or in some other way affects another word present in a sentence. In logically-built sentences, one can find a modifier in front or behind the words that are being described by them.
E.g. As far as I remember, my numerous and strange uncles had an impact on the way I had been raised.
In this example, numerous and strange precede the noun uncles and modify it by specifying certain qualities of this word.
What is a Dangling Modifier?
When a writer has included a modifying word or phrase, but has forgotten about the target word to which it should be applied to, it is fair to speak of a dangling modifier. In this case, a modifier is associated with a word that is different from the one author meant, or with no word at all.
Key Points to Consider
- Rather often, dangling modifiers occur in sentences with participle clauses.
- Non-participle dangling modifiers are difficult to notice; sometimes they can be useful, as they help to create a humorous effect.
E.g. I was chasing that dog in my pajamas. In my pajamas here refers to I, not to the dog.
Examples of Dangling Modifiers
- With disappointment, the new smartphone was returned back to the shop.
This sentence does not mention a person who has been disappointed by the need to return the phone; since neither a phone nor a shop cannot be disappointed, and there are no other target words to which the modifier could be applied to, this is an example of a dangling modifier.
Correct would be to say: “With disappointment, Jack returned his new smartphone back to the shop.”
- Hoping to look better, her parents were displeased with my outfit.
Hoping to look better can be misinterpreted to be related to her parents, whereas it should be applied to a missed target word or phrase. The correct sentence could look like this: “Hoping to look better, I wore my new hat, but my girlfriend’s parents were displeased with my outfit.”
- Turning left, a house where Jack lived could be seen.
This is a dangling modifier because turning left should describe actions or the behavior of a person, which is not mentioned in the sentence.
The correct sentence could look like: “Turning left, I saw the house where Jack lived.”
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