Avoiding Dangling Modifiers: Examples and Solutions

The word "dangling" refers to hanging or swinging loosely. A modifier, on the other hand, is a word or phrase that makes partial or minor changes to something. In English grammar, a dangling modifier is a modifier (word or phrase) that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence, resulting in an incomplete or unclear meaning.

Examples of Dangling Modifiers

Example:

  • Incorrect: Hearing the good news, happiness was mine.
  • Incorrect: Hearing the good news, happy I was.
  • Correct: Hearing the good news, I was happy.

Here, the modifier in the incorrect sentences should modify the word 'I,' but it incorrectly modifies 'happy' or 'happiness.' The action of hearing is performed by the person ('I'), not by happiness.

Common Structures for Dangling Modifiers


  1. Present Participle or Participle Phrase
  2. A present participle or participle phrase acts as a dangling modifier when it is not properly connected to the noun or pronoun it intends to modify.

    Example:

    • Incorrect: Entering the room, the light was off.
    • Correct: Entering the room, I found the light off.

  3. Past Participle or Past Participle Phrase
  4. A past participle or past participle phrase acts as a dangling modifier when it does not have a clear connection to the noun or pronoun it intends to modify.

    Example:

    • Incorrect: Tired and exhausted, a nap was taken by the passer-by.
    • Correct: Tired and exhausted, the passer-by took a nap.

  5. Perfect Participle (having+v3) / (having been +v3)
  6. A perfect participle or perfect participle phrase acts as a dangling modifier when it is not properly linked to the noun or pronoun it intends to modify.

    Example:

    • Incorrect: Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was needed.
    • Correct: Having arrived late for practice, the team captain needed a written excuse.

  7. Adjective Phrase
  8. An adjective phrase acts as a dangling modifier when it is not correctly associated with the noun or pronoun it intends to modify.

    Example:

    • Incorrect: Young and inexperienced, the task seemed easy to me.
    • Correct: Young and inexperienced, I thought the task was easy.

  9. Reduced Adverbial Clause
  10. A reduced adverbial clause acts as a dangling modifier when it lacks a clear connection to the noun or pronoun it intends to modify.

    Example:

    • Incorrect: While walking in the garden, her leg was broken.
    • Correct: While she was walking in the garden, she broke her leg.

More Examples:

  • Incorrect: Walking in the park, a snake bit him.
  • Correct: Walking in the park, he was bitten by a snake.
  • Incorrect: Flying out the window, he grabbed the papers.
  • Correct: Flying out the window, the papers were grabbed by him.
Grammar Lab

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