Get your Dangling Participle out of my face!

Inspired by the humor of the Paraprosdokian phrases of last Friday’s post; today we will to cover the grammatical sin of the dangling participle.

A participle is a verb that is used as an adjective.  We mostly see the present participle, verbs with the “ing” ending.  The verb hide” becomes “hiding” and can be used as a modifier, like in “a hiding place.”  “Hiding” modifies the noun “place.”

Maybe I should mention now that I’m not an English major, so I’m doing my best to keep this simple.

A dangling participle modifies an unintended noun.  The noun it was supposed to modify is either not present in the sentence or not placed correctly.  We best use some examples to explain:

Running through the field, the flowers left pollen all over our socks.

The participle phrase “running through the field” appears to be talking about the flowers and not the children.  A correct phrase would put the the intended noun right after the comma like this:

Running through the field, our socks were covered in pollen.

Ack!  Wait a minute, now the socks are running through the field, let’s try again.

Running through the field, we got pollen on our socks.

Not a great sentence, but you get the idea.  Ok, let’s try another one –

Having eaten my dinner, the waiter gave me the check.

How annoying for that waiter to have eaten the man’s dinner!  The phrase “Having eaten my dinner” is followed immediately by “the waiter” leading the reader to assume just that.  Here is the correct placement:

Having eaten my dinner, I asked the waiter for the check.

The big rule: when using a participle phrase (or any modifying phrase) the intended noun needs to appear right after the comma.

Now that you are a pro, see if you can fix these flawed sentences:

Sitting on the throne, the window seemed far away.

Skiing down the mountain, the penguin hat streamed behind the man’s head.

Turning the corner, the building looked even more impressive.

At the age of 5, my grandfather died. (not technically a dangling participle, but incorrect in the same way)

That’s all for today, for more advanced discussion on dangling modifiers check out these sites:

Grammar Girl: Dangling Participles

Wikipedia: Dangling Modifier

Happy Writing!

< Click here to see last week’s lesson “i.e. vs e.g.”

To see all my grammar posts click here

Having finished my dinner, the waitress offered to bring out the dessert tray.


About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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9 Responses to Get your Dangling Participle out of my face!

  1. Well done. I almost understand now. ))

  2. nrhatch says:

    Nicely spelled out, Jo! Good examples. My fave:

    “Having eaten my dinner, the waiter gave me the check.”

    How RUDE! ; )

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  4. OK, OK!!! I know, I know…but since I write the way I think, and I know what is being modified, I DON’T CARE!!! 😀 Writing for term papers and other more “literary venues,” I’m careful about editing, but as you might have seen, in my comments, as well as my own blog, I am a rather egregious sinner in the “dangling participle” respect! Thanks for the reminder, though…I just might start editing my posts, just don’t ask me to leave out my … , my italics, my CAPS, my ” “, and my dashes – WYSIWYG! With emphasis! Paula Tohline Calhoun

    • tsuchigari says:

      Generally my grammar posts are things that I’m struggling with. I figure the fastest way of learning it is to write about it. If you check the first sentence in my semicolon post it’s completely incorrect. A reader pointed it out to me later and we both had a good laugh.

    • Grammar and Punctuation are weak points of mine. Like Paula, I write the way I speak. I don’t truly understand why dangling participles, are vilified so thoroughly. When I write dialog, I write how I want said person to speak. I think it gives you a better sense of who they are.

      Beyond that, if you break a paragraph into individual sentences– for correction; then it only shows that the sentence is more important than the sum of the paragraph. To me– that seems a bit dull.

      For example.

      Sitting alone by the tree, Rego let go of his pride. In the intervening silence, his thoughts were ill suited to banish his loneliness. He was wrong, and he knew it; however, it hadn’t changed his need to be right. Taking deep breathes, afraid of what might come next, the man plotted his next course.

      I’m sure there are a million problems with this short paragraph, according to the confusing, and often flexible set of rules that accompany the English language.

      Subjecting the world to dangling, run-on, comma-crazy, modifying the predicate sentences,
      Varity Sinning

      • tsuchigari says:

        In dialogue you are allowed to do all sorts of things that generally aren’t allowed in the narration. It is a great place to break the rules because you want to reflect how people speak.

        Your example is a nice piece of writing – and believe it or not your participles all agree correctly! Like you said, the rules are flexible. Once you understand them you can bend them to your will!

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