Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes something.

There are two common types of modifiers in the English language:

  1. Adverbs – describing verbs
  2. Adjectives – describing nouns

Confusion can be caused when a modifier is placed too close to some other word that it does not intend to modify. The result can be humorous, but it is grammatically incorrect. Look at the following examples:


  1. A woman passed by, leading a springer spaniel in a long black dress.
  2. Hopping briskly though the vegetable garden, I saw a toad.
  3. My cousin went on and on, describing the details of her wedding in the elevator.
  4. The guide found the lion following its trail.
  5. John and Mary found the flowers hiking up the mountain.
  6. I found my missing gloves cleaning my room.
  7. Don’t try to pat the dog on the porch that is growling.
  8. The photojournalist took a photo of a demonstrator with a long lens camera.
  9. From our seats we could see the stage clearly in the balcony.
  10. The guest speaker had dedicated his book to his dog who was an archaeologist.
  11. I bought the red coat from the shop owner with the large pockets.
  12. Peering through the trees, the path was evident.
  13. The smoke alarm went off while cooking my dinner.
  14. A young woman knocked on the door wearing a suit and a hat.
  15. My mother found a parcel outside our house tied with ribbons.
  16. Covered in cream cheese, my friends will love these bagels.
  17. Reading a book, the cat crawled into my lap.
  18. The library has several books about dinosaurs in our school.
  19. We saw a herd of sheep on the way to our hotel in Wales.
  20. Dipped in cream, many people love fresh strawberries.
  21. I sent a poster to Jane rolled in a tube.
  22. While doing the dishes, a mouse ran across the floor.
  23. I gave olives to my friend that I stabbed with my fork.
  24. While typing my report, the keys jammed.
  25. While flying over the lake, the skyscrapers of Chicago appeared in the distance.

One thought on “Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers”

  1. I love number 5 – I’m trying to imagine those poor delicate flowers with rucksacks on their backs.

    Dangling and misplaced modifiers are certainly very humourous, but care should be taken to avoid them, as they are errors – as Mrs Meighan has pointed out.

    Here students (or anyone) can try to spot the correct (or incorrect) sentence in each of the following pairs:

    Piled up next to the washer, I began doing the laundry.
    I began doing the laundry piled up next to the washer.

    While John was talking on the phone, the doorbell rang.
    While talking on the phone, the doorbell rang.

    Standing on the balcony, the ocean view was magnificent.
    Standing on the balcony, we had a magnificent ocean view.

    As I was running across the floor, the rug slipped and I lost my balance,
    Running across the floor, the rug slipped and I lost my balance.

    While taking out the trash, the sack broke.
    While Jamie was taking out the trash, the sack broke.

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