Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dangling Modifiers: The Participle Principle



Ted writes:
Hi Snarky,
Can you please tell me what's wrong with this sentence? It was part of a short story I wrote at school.

After getting kicked off the basketball team, the mall became Jake's new favorite hangout.
My teacher wrote, 'D.M. Can malls dribble and shoot? Pls fix!' I have no clue what he's talking about.

Heh. Ted, I can see that your teacher shares my hilariously snarky sense of humor. 'D.M.' is short for dangling modifier. Your teacher is poking fun at your sentence's dangling participle.

Building blocks:   

  • A participle is an '-ing' word that modifies a noun. Very often, words that end in '-ing' are the present participles of verbs, such as swimming, talking, laughing, and so on. 
  • A participle can be part of a larger phrase, called a participial phrase, that modifies a noun. 

Quick rules:
  • The participial phrase should be followed by a comma and then the noun that's being modified.
  • That noun must be the subject of the main clause. When the participial phrase does not modify the subject, we say that it is dangling.

Let's break down Ted's sentence.
After getting kicked off the basketball team, the mall became Jake's new favorite hangout.
'After getting kicked off the basketball team' is the participial phrase that modifies the subject, Jake. As the sentence is written now, however, the subject of the main clause seems to be 'the mall.' Ted's teacher asked if malls could dribble and shoot (heh heh) because this sentence implies that the mall got kicked off the basketball team.

Correction: Sentences with dangling participles usually require some reworking. Here are two alternatives:

  • After getting kicked off the basketball team, Jake started hanging out at the mall.
  • The mall became Jake's new favorite hangout after he got kicked off the basketball team.

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. I have to say, that was a little creepy to read.

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  3. There is favorably more of the concerning objects and values for the students to disclose herewith because in most of the regarded facts and opinions these are said to be important.

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