What Is A Dangling Participle?

Have you learned about dangling participles? Do you know that you should avoid them?

In this lesson, you'll learn about those crazy little guys and why you should avoid them.


First Things First.
What Are Participles?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. You need to learn about participles first.

Participles are a type of verbal.

That means that they are formed from verbs, but they don't act as verbs. Participles acts as adjectives.

Let's check out some examples of participles, shall we?

The filtered water tastes delicious.

Psst! That thing is a sentence diagram. Sentence diagrams show us how words are related. From the diagram, you can SEE that filtered is modifying water.

Filtered is a participle. It is formed from the verb filter, and it is acting as an adjective.

It tells us more about the noun water. Which water? The filtered water.

Look at the shooting star!

Shooting is a participle. It is formed from the verb shoot, and it is acting as an adjective.

It tells us more about the noun star. Which star? The shooting star.


Participial Phrases

Now that you understand participles, we need to talk about participial phrases.

I know. You just want to learn about participles that dangle, but trust me here. You need to learn this stuff first. You're being such a good sport. We're almost there.

Participles can be in participial phrases. (A phrase is a group of words without a subject and a verb, acting as one part of speech.)

A participial phrase consists of a participle and its complements or modifiers. All of the words in the participial phrase come together to act as an adjective.

People snoring in the night bother me.

Snoring in the night is a participial phrase. It contains the participle snoring and the prepositional phrase in the night.

The whole participial phrase is acting as an adjective modifying the noun people.

Which people bother me? People snoring in the night.


Dangling Participles

Yay!

You remember that participles act as adjectives, right? That means that they modify nouns.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell which noun a participial phrase is modifying. In fact, the noun that it is intended to modify may not be stated in the sentence. That's not a good thing.

When this happens, it's called a dangling participle because it just dangles there with nothing to modify.

Sitting on the park bench, the sun disappeared behind the clouds.

Sitting on the park bench is a dangling participle.

Where is the noun that sitting on the park bench modifies? It's not modifying sun or clouds. In fact, the noun that it is modifying is not even in the sentence. That poor participial phrase is just dangling there with nothing to modify. Poor thing.

To fix participles that dangle, move them so that they come right before or after the noun or pronoun that they are modifying.

Sitting on the park bench, I watched the sun disappear behind the clouds.

Now, sitting on the park bench clearly modifies the pronoun I, so it's not dangling any longer!


Misplaced Modifier

When participial phrases modify a noun other than the one intended, it's called a misplaced modifier. This makes sense because it is a modifier (an adjective), and it's in the wrong place.

One great thing about them is that they are usually hilarious.

Covered in mustard and relish, I enjoyed the hot dog.

Covered in mustard and relish is a misplaced modifier.

It contains the participle covered, and it is modifying the wrong word.

As the sentence is written, covered in mustard and relish is modifying I, but that doesn't make much sense!

The sentence probably intends to say that the hot dog was covered in mustard and relish, but it says that I was covered in mustard and relish.

You can learn to diagram participial phrases with this sentence diagramming book. All the cool kids are doing it.

To fix misplaced modifiers, move them so that they come right before or after the noun or pronoun that they are modifying.

Covered in mustard and relish, I enjoyed the hot dog.

Covered in mustard and relish comes right before the pronoun I.

We want to change it so that it is closest to the noun hot dog.

Here's one way that you could fix that sentence.

I enjoyed the hot dog covered in mustard and relish.

Covered in mustard and relish is now a regular, old participial phrase.

It's not misplaced now because it properly modifies hot dog.

Avoid dangling participles and misplaced modifiers unless you are trying to be funny!

If you want to teach or learn grammar the easy way, then follow a step-by-step program that clearly lays everything out for you and allows you to move at your own pace. The Get Smart program is presented in a logical sequence, so it's not an overwhelming mishmash of information. Before you know it, you'll be a grammar and sentence diagramming pro!

The whole program is online, so you have instant access to these lessons and videos. It's easy and fun. You can get it at www.English-Grammar-Revolution.com/daily-diagrams.html
Keep learning and have fun!

Elizabeth O'Brien is the creator of the Grammar Revolution step-by-step grammar and sentence diagramming programs. Her programs are guaranteed not only to teach you grammar, but also to give you more confidence in your communication skills.

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