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Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

Author: Alex Seydow

In this learning packet you will learn:

1. What a modifier is and how it functions in a sentence.

2. How to avoid dangling and misplaced modifiers.

3. How to fix sentences that have dangling or misplaced modifiers.

This learning packet covers modifiers which are also called adjective phrases. Modifiers are commonly used in academic writing, but can lead to confusion when the are not used correctly. In this learning packet, you will learn how to correctly use modifiers to make your writing sound more interesting.

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Important Terms

1.  Modifier: A modifier is an adjective that resembles a verb and is used to describe or clarify another word or phrase in the sentence.  Modifiers usually occur in a dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence or directly after the word or phrase they describe.  Modifiers may also be referred to as adjective phrases.   

Example: Based on the author's youth in India, the novel explores contemporary themes in post-colonial literature.

2. Adjective Clause: An adjective clause is introduced by a relative pronoun such as who, that, or which.  It is used to describe a word or phrase in the sentence and often occurs between commas in a non-essential clause.

Example: The brewing company, which is based in Denver, Colorado, is popular among college students.

3. Appositive Noun Phrase: An appositive noun phrase includes at least one noun and is used to further describe a word or phrase in the sentence.  An appositive noun phrase may be used to explain a technical term, introduce an abbreviation, or provide a list of items in a group.  This type of phrase often occurs in parentheses.

Example: Stress can lead to hypertension (an increase in blood pressure).

4.  Dangling Modifier: A dangling modifier describes a word or phrase that is left out of the sentence. This leads to confusion and is a common mistake in academic writing. 

Example: Having won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Jane couldn't stop reading. 

3.  Misplaced Modifier: A misplaced modifier is illogically separated from the word or phrase it is meant to described.  This makes it difficult for the reader to know what the modifier is describing.

Example: Consisting of mainly chicken and beef, the vegetarian could not eat any food at the wedding. 

What are modifiers?

This video describes how modifiers work in sentences.

How to fix dangling modifiers

This video gives several examples of dangling modifiers and ways to fix them.

How to fix misplaced modifiers

This video gives several examples of misplaced modifiers and ways to fix them.

Common Modifiers (Adjective Phrases)

The following verbs are commonly used as modifiers/adjective phrases:


-ing                                                   -ed 

Arising                                             Based

Concerning                                      Caused

Consisting                                       Concerned

Containing                                       Given

Having                                             Made

Including                                          Obtained

Involving                                          Produced

Relating                                           Taken

Requiring                                          Used



Source: Conrad, Susan and Douglas Biber. (2009) Real grammar: a corpus-based approach to English. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.