Do you know what a dangling participle is? If not…you’re not alone. Truth is, a lot of people don’t know what this phrase means, and even more people don’t know how to use it properly. In this article, we’ll define the term “dangling participle” and give you some examples of how to use it in your own writing.
What Is A Dangling participle?
A dangling participle is an adjective that is unintentionally modifying the wrong noun. It is just one type of dangling modifier, a phrase that modifies a word other than the one it intended to modify.
Note: A dangler is a word or phrase that doesn’t modify anything (or the correct noun) in a sentence.
- For example, “Walking through the park, the flowers were in full bloom.” In this sentence, it sounds like the flowers are doing the walking!
To avoid confusion, be sure to place the adjective as close to the noun it is intended to modify as possible. Another tip is to revise any sentence that starts with an -ing verb; often, these sentences can be rewritten more clearly.
Takeaway: Adjective that is accidentally modifying the wrong noun.
How To Avoid Them
Dangling modifiers, more specifically dangling participles, are one of the most common grammatical errors people make. And, unfortunately, they can be pretty difficult to avoid.
To avoid this common error, just make sure to place the participle phrase right before or after the noun or pronoun it modifies.
- For example, “After he ate breakfast, the cat jumped on the couch.” This sentence makes it clear that it was the boy, not the cat, who ate breakfast.
Takeaway: Pay close attention to where you place your participial phrases in a sentence. Your participial phrase should be before or after the intended noun. It should be clear who is performing a specific action!
Common Dangling Participle Examples
Dangling participles are all too common. But they are not the only type of participles. You also have to know the difference between past vs past participle. Writers often use participle phrases incorrectly. Here are some examples of dangling participles.
- “Walking through the garden, the flowers were blooming.” In this sentence, it sounds like the flowers were doing the walking. To fix it, you could say “As I walked through the garden, I noticed that the flowers were blooming.”
- “After being chewed by the dog, my shoe was ruined.” Here, it sounds like I did the chewing. To fix it, you could say “After the dog chewed my shoe, it was ruined.”
- “Walking to class, my backpack suddenly became very heavy.” In this sentence, it sounds like the backpack is doing the walking.
Humorous Dangling Participle Examples
Here are some funny dangling participle examples that you can use in your writing!
- Sitting at the park bench, my sandwich was devoured by a squirrel with impressive table manners.
- After a long day of work, the couch welcomed me with open arms, ready to binge-watch my favorite TV show.
- Wandering through the supermarket, the shopping carts formed a synchronized dance routine, much to the confusion of the customers.
If you’re going to add humor, make sure you understand the context of your writing! It would not be appropriate to make jokes in most formal writing contexts like business emails or academic papers.
Subordinate Clauses & Dangling Participles
A subordinate clause is a type of clause that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. To be dramatically correct, it must be attached to an independent clause.
Also known as a dependent clause, a subordinate clause adds information to the main clause and typically begins with a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun.
- For example, the subordinate clause “that you gave me” in the sentence “I know that you gave me the book” cannot stand alone and must be attached to the main clause “I know.”
Takeaway: Subordinate clauses cannot stand on their own. They must be attached to the main clause in order to form a complete sentence.
FAQs – Dangling Participles
Here is an example of a dangling participial phrase, “After eating three slices of pizza, my friend picking at her salad seemed ridiculous.” In this example, it is not even clear who is eating the pizza! Is it the friend or the speaker?
“I was walking down the street, I saw a cat.” This is a dangling sentence because “I saw a cat” could be deleted without affecting the main meaning of the paragraph.
In most cases, dangling participles are considered grammatically incorrect. This is because the present participles and past participles are placed in the wrong location! If you understand participles and where to place them in relation to the sentence’s subject, your writing will improve/
To fix a dangling participle, you need to make sure that the subject of the participle is actually the subject of the clause or sentence in which it appears. The participial phrase must modify a noun or pronoun that immediately follows it in order for it to be used correctly.
Most people use dangling participles without realizing it. A dangling participle is when a sentence begins with a present participle or past participle (-ing or -ed), but the closest noun is not the actor described by the participle. However, it can be used for comedic effects.
A dangling participle is just one type of dangling modifier. A participle is a verb form that can be used as an adjective, and a dangling participle occurs when the participial phrase is not attached to the word it modifies.
The Bottom Line
Dangling participles are a type of modifier that can be easy to miss in your writing. They can often cause confusion for the reader and should be avoided if possible. By using the tips we’ve provided, you can help ensure that your writing is clear and concise, without any dangling participles.