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Dangling Participles

Dangling participles (also known as dangling modifiers) sound more painful than they actually are.

Consider the following sentences all of which contain dangling participles or dangling modifiers.

In the sentence below, the modifying clause (Rushing to catch the bus) contains a participle (rushing). The participle is said to be dangling because the subject of the main clause (Bob's wallet) is not the thing modified by the initial modifying clause. It was not Bob's wallet that was rushing.

Rushing to the catch the bus, Bob's wallet fell out of his pocket.

The modifying clause (flying south for the winter) does not modify the subject of the sentence (I). I was not flying south, the birds were.

Flying south for the winter, I saw a huge flock of swallows.

The modifier (Falling through thin ice) does not refer to the subject of the sentence (the jogger). The jogger was not falling through the ice, the dog was.

Falling through the thin ice, the jogger dived into the lake to save the dog.

The modifier refers to Janet and not to (we) the subject of the sentence. We are not driven to drink by her problems, Janet is.

Driven to drink by her problems, we see how Janet will come to a sticky end.

It is easy to fall into the trap of having dangling participles (modifiers) in your work. They are not corrected by computer grammar checkers and can be easily overlooked. The more you look at examples of dangling participles, the more you will be able to spot them and remove them from your own writing.

Test your understanding of dangling participles using this exercise.