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Grammar Lesson: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 15, 2010

Words, phrases, and clauses that describe or modify nouns and pronouns need to be properly placed within the sentence. This placement should clearly indicate which word is being described.

A misplaced modifier is a word or group of words intended to describe a noun or pronoun, but is placed incorrectly within the sentence.

Speaking to the state officials, the microphone held the reporter.

(In this sentence, the underlined modifier, Speaking to the state officials, a participial phrase, is misplaced. The reporter, not the microphone, was speaking to the state officials. Thus, the sentence could read, "The reporter speaking to the state officials held the microphone.")

Other misplaced modifier examples include these. See if you can correct each one.

    In the microwave, the man cooked the popcorn.
    Unhappy, the match was forfeited by the tennis player.

A dangling modifier is a word or group of words intended to describe a noun or pronoun, but, according to the sentence's wording, has nothing to describe.

    To get to the airport, the tram needs to be taken.
    (In this sentence, the underlined modifier, To get to the airport, describes nothing. The corrected version should read, "To get to the airport, you need to take the tram." Now the modifier has someone to describe—you!)

Other dangling modifier examples include these. See if you can correct each one.

    To solve this challenging puzzling, patience is needed.
    Walking along the Thames River, the flowers looked beautiful.

Activity- Revising Sentences that have Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Revise each sentence so that the misplaced and dangling modifiers work correctly. Add or delete words as needed. Write your revised sentences on a separate sheet of paper.

  1. To move this heavy package, strength is needed.
  2. Walking quickly, the road was crossed.
  3. Emma read the cartoon laughing loudly.
  4. While washing the dishes, my cell phone rang.
  5. Glued to the present, Bob saw the bow.
  6. Looking under the bed, my birthday gift was spotted.
  7. Extending over three hundred miles, the car moved along the highway.
  8. Shining in the distance, I saw a star.
  9. Wrapped in silver foil, I ate my hamburger.
  10. Hal noticed a kangaroo driving his motorcycle.

Answers

(These are possible changes.)

  1. To move this heavy package, you need strength.
  2. Walking quickly, we crossed the road.
  3. Laughing loudly, Emma read the cartoon.
  4. While I was washing the dishes, my cell phone rang.
  5. Bob saw the bow glued to the present.
  6. Looking under the bed, I spotted my birthday gift.
  7. The car moved along the highway that extended for over three hundred miles.
  8. I saw a star shining in the distance.
  9. I ate my hamburger that had been wrapped in silver foil.
  10. Driving his motorcycle, Hal noticed a kangaroo.
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