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Dangling Modifiers: Where’s the Subject?

Dangling modifiers occur when a phrase doesn’t have the subject that it’s supposed to modify.

Sentences with dangling modifiers are often funny because they have unintended meanings.

Wrong: Having eaten a small lunch, dinner tasted especially good.

Right: Having eaten a small lunch, Elaine thought that dinner tasted especially good.

The subject, Elaine, was left out of the first sentence, so it seems like dinner is the one that ate a small lunch, which doesn’t make sense.

Wrong: After finishing work, swimming is relaxing.

Right: After finishing work, Alexei relaxes by swimming.

Swimming didn’t finish work; Alexei did.

Misplaced Modifiers: In the Wrong Spot

Misplaced modifiers are a special type of dangling modifier that occur when the modifying phrase is separated from its subject.

Wrong: Piers saw a bear on the way to the gym.

Right: On the way to the gym, Piers saw a bear.

In the first sentence, it isn’t clear if it’s Piers or the bear that’s going to the gym.

Wrong: Wounded by falling off her bike, the paramedics put Jade on a stretcher.

Right: The paramedics put Jade, who was wounded by falling off her bike, on a stretcher.

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