Dangling Modifiers

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Worksheet 1 explains the concept of dangling and misplaced modifiers, including suggestions for correcting them. It has 9 exercises. Worksheet 2 has 17 exercises. Exercises provide students with the opportunity of correcting dangling modifiers by rewriting the sentences.

Worksheet 1, Misplaced and Dangling Participles, 9 Exercises
Worksheet 2, Misplaced and Dangling Participles, 17 Exercises

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The Problem

In the rush of drafting articles and essays, writers sometimes compose sentences that do not have the intended meaning. Take, for example, "Eating strawberries beneath the oak tree, the butterfly came to a rest on Anna's nose." The intended meaning of this sentence is that while Anna ate strawberries under the oak tree, the butterfly came to a rest on her nose. However, the original sentence suggests that the butterfly, not Anna, was eating strawberries beneath the oak tree. The phrase "eating strawberries beneath the oak tree" is a dangling modifier, in this case, a dangling participle.

Gerunds and Participles

Let's examine the difference between a participle and a gerund. A gerund is a verb form used as a noun. It always ends in "ing." For example, "Running is a healthy activity; it promotes endurance and muscle strength." The word "Running" is a noun; notice that the pronoun "it" replaces thr noun "running" in the second clause. In this case, "Running" is a gerund. A gerund is rarely misplaced or misused.

A participle, on the other hand, is a verb form used as an adjective. Consider the following: "Running, James tripped over the tree stumps." In this construction, "Running" is a participle; it modifies James, the subject of the sentence. As modifiers, participles are often misused, and are thus called dangling or misplaced modifiers.

"Running recklessly through the forest, the tree stump tripped James." This sentence reads as if the tree stump was running recklessly through the forest, not James. This is an example of a dangling modifier. The introductory participial phrase does not have a noun in the subject position of the main clause to attach to. It dangles.

Examples of Dangling Modifiers

  • Enclosed within the electrical fence, Susan saw the rhinoceros graze on the long grass.
  • Beaten to a bloody pulp by a quicker and stronger opponent, the little girl hugged her downcast father after the boxing match.
  • Singing "Amazing Grace" from the choir loft, his lost German Shepherd raced through the church as Joel looked on in disbelief.

These examples are funny or disturbing. In each case, the writer communicates an unintended meaning by using a dangling modifier.

Correcting Dangling Modifiers

There are many ways of correcting a dangling modifier or participle. Two are illustrated below.

  1. Turn the misplaced or dangling participle into a dependent clause.

    This means that you take the "ing" word (the participle), give it a subject, turn the "ing" word into a verb, and attach it to the main clause.

    "While Joel sang 'Amazing Grace' from the choir loft, his lost German Shepherd raced through the church as Joel looked on in disbelief."

  2. Make the thing being modified by the participle, the subject of the main clause.

    This means we take what is being modified by the "ing" phrase and place it first in the sentence, right after the comma.

    "Singing 'Amazing Grace' from the choir loft, Joel looked on in disbelief as his lost German Shepherd race through the church."

For additional ways of correcting misplaced or dangling participles, examine the pages in the following links and download the worksheet.

Worksheet 1, 9 Exercises

Rewrite each sentence to eliminate any misplaced or dangling participles.

  1. Shaken, not stirred, James Bond likes his martinis.
  2. While driving to the Homestead Campus, a pillow fell from James’s car.
  3. Shocked by the foul language on television, the remote control dropped from Aunt Sherry’s hand.
  4. Running across Tropical Park, the paddle boats on the lake appeared to be floating on air.
  5. Attacked by the school bully, the backpack fell from Abner’s shoulder.
  6. Walking barefoot through the tall grass, dew drops felt good between my toes.
  7. Driven by insatiable ambition and greed, the computer ran Henry’s stock trading program all day.
  8. Confused by the new layout of the house, the soiled diaper fell off the baby as he cried and ran from room to room.
  9. Staring up at the tall buildings, the wallet fell from Jasmine’s purse.

Worksheet 2, 17 Exercises

Rewrite each sentence to eliminate any misplaced or dangling participles.

  1. Upset with the boys’ constant bickering, the car veered into a ditch as the father turned to scold the children.
  2. Collecting photographic and physical evidence at the scene, the briefcase bulged with documents when the prosecutor returned to her office.
  3. Peeing constantly on the kitchen throw rug, the maid got frustrated from cleaning up after the new puppy.
  4. Elated at the thought of his new job, the cell phone dropped from Gus’s hands as he ran to tell Karen.
  5. Delighted with the response from the audience, the curtain fell on Kristen.
  6. Dividing her time between caring for aging parents and managing her household, it was difficult for Jill to get a full-time job.
  7. Keeping mostly to herself, the orchid hung limply from Casey’s dress at the prom.
  8. Smiling from ear to ear, it was obvious that Karen was happy with Rick’s decision.
  9. Dismissed from his position at the law firm, the Ferrari spun out of control as Ken sped away in a rage.
  10. Running two miles a day during the fall, the uniform jersey hung loose on Ivan when lacrosse season began.
  11. Fearing allegations of child abuse, the infant was placed in foster care.
  12. Excited at the prospect of visiting Greece, a smile graced Ceci’s face as she drove to the airport.
  13. Singing at the top of his lungs, it reminded Evan of his days with the church choir.
  14. Having been absent for two consecutive days, the attendance clerk required a doctor’s note.
  15. Finishing a page from a Disney Princess coloring book, the petals on the flowers were a light shade of pink.
  16. Fishing off the Seven Mile Bridge, the power boat almost ripped Peter’s line as it sped by.
  17. Arriving in the dorms two weeks early, the room was clean and ready when Will’s roommate arrived.

Links for Dangling Modifier or Dangling Participle

  • Utah State University

    A crisply-written article. The humor jumps out at you. "Flitting gaily from flower to flower, the football player watched the bee." One has to laugh.

  • Tina Blue at grammartips.homestead.com

    A heavily text-ladden article that further discusses the difference between a participle and a gerund. She offers good, and humorous, examples.

  • The Purdue OWL

    Clear, with good strategies for revising dangling modifiers.

  • Towson State University

    Provides and explanation of misplaced modifiers as well as dangling modifiers. The graphics help the explanations.