What is a Misplaced Modifier? Definition, Examples of Dangling Modifiers

Misplaces modifier definition: A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is separated from the word it describes. As a result, confusing or awkward statements are formed.

What is a Misplaced Modifier?

What does misplaced modifier mean? A misplaced modifier is just that—a modifier (a describer) that is misplaced (separated) from the word it describes. This could mean that the modifier is in the wrong place in the sentence or that the word the modifier should describe is omitted from the sentence.

In English, modifiers are placed immediately before or after the word(s) they describe. When a modifier is misplaced, it becomes difficult to tell which word(s) it describes.

Misplaced Modifier Examples

examples of misplaced modifiers Example with correctly placed modifier:

  • Loud singing annoys you quickly.

Here, it is clear that you are quickly annoyed.

Example with misplaced modifier:

  • Loud singing quickly annoys me.

Here, it is unclear if quickly modifies loud singing or if it modifies how fast you are annoyed.

Types of Misplaced Modifiers

There are different kinds of misplaced modifiers, and we will go through the most common kinds below.

Limiting Modifiers

misplaced and dangling modifiers exercises What is a limiting modifier? Limiting modifiers express some sort of “limit.” They should come directly before the word they modify in a sentence.

The most common limiting modifiers are: almost, hardly, just, merely, nearly, and only.

Limiting Modifier Examples:

Trying to say that the one food Michelle eats is pizza

  • Incorrect: Only Michelle eats pizza.
  • Correct: Michelle eats only

Trying to say that George does not know many people

  • Incorrect: George knows hardly
  • Correct: George hardly knows anybody.

Squinting Modifiers

misplaced modifier worksheet What is a squinting modifier? A squinting modifier is usually an adverb which could easily modify the word that comes before or after it.

These sentences should be restructured so it is clear which word or words the modifier describes.

Squinting Modifier Examples:

  • Incorrect: Running through the forest immediately exhausted the dog.
    • Did the dog run immediately or did running immediately exhaust him?
  • Correct: Running through the forest exhausted the dog immediately.

Dangling Modifiers?

example of a dangling modifierWhat is a dangling modifier? A dangling modifier does not have anything to modify because the word or words it should modify have been omitted from the sentence.

These sentences should be restructured to include the words the modifiers describe.

Dangling Modifier Examples:

  • Incorrect: Reading the hotel’s restrictions, my dog stayed at home.
    • The dog cannot read the signs; the word(s) “reading the hotel’s restrictions” modifies have been omitted
  • Correct: Reading the hotel’s restrictions, we left my dog at home.
    • “Reading the hotel’s restrictions” now modifies “we”.

Misplaced Modifiers Can Change Sentence Meanings

correcting dangling modifiers worksheetWhy are misplaced modifiers bad? Misplaced modifiers can change the meaning of sentences. This is clear in the examples above. It is important to be very clear which words modifiers describe.

In this light, place modifiers only in sentences where:

  1. they are grammatically correct
  2. they do not add confusion
  3. they make clear which words they modify

How to Fix a Misplaced Modifier

One way to avoid misplaced modifiers is to always be sure that the word or words the modifier describes is in the sentence. Furthermore, modifiers should always be located directly before or after the word or words they modify.

Examples:

  • Incorrect: Horrified, John’s attitude changed.
    • Dangling modifier: John’s attitude cannot be horrified; only John can be horrified
  • Correct: Horrified, John changed his attitude.

The placement of modifiers is essential. Keep them as close to the words they modify as possible.

Summary: What are Misplaced Modifiers?

Define misplaced modifier: the definition of a misplaced modifier is a modifying clause of phrase that awkwardly creates ambiguity or misunderstanding.

In summary, misplaced modifiers:

  • are modifiers that are not in the appropriate location in a sentence
  • cause confusion or awkward sentences

should be avoided; this may require complete sentence revision