A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that is placed in a wrong place in a sentence. Usually, it is placed too far away from the word that it is meant to modify; this results in the wrong word being modified. When this happens, the sentence causes confusion or does not appear to make sense. To correct it requires moving the modifier to the right place, which is next or as close as possible to the word it is to modify.
- We nearly lived in that house for five years. (Misplaced modifier)
- We lived in that house for nearly five years. (Corrected: nearly modifies five)
- He bought a squirrel from a friend with a bushy tail. (The phrase with a bushy tail is wrongly placed to modify friend. It says that the friend has a bushy tail.)
- Correct: He bought a squirrel with a bushy tail from a friend. (with a bushy tail now correctly modifies squirrel.)
- Five occupants of the burning building were reported burnt to death by the police.
- Correct: The police reported that five occupants of the burning building were burnt to death.
- Gathering on the beach, the UFO was watched by a large number of people.
- Correct: Gathering on the beach, a large number of people watched the UFO. (Or: A large number of people gathered on the beach to watch the UFO.)
- Kept in her safe for many years, she decided to wear her gold necklace.
- Correct: She decided to wear her gold necklace, which had been kept in her safe for many years.
When we have a modifier in the form of a word, phrase, or clause, we must make sure there is something for it to modify. If the something is not present in the sentence, the modifier will be wrongly modifying something else and it is called a dangling modifier. A sentence having a dangling modifier is confusing as it doesn't make sense. To make correction, put in the word that has been left out of the sentence for the modifier to modify.
- Looking at the sea, a boat approaching shore was noticed.
- Correct: Looking at the sea, I noticed a boat approaching shore.
- Having seen the movie once, there is no reason to see it again.
- Correct: Having seen the movie once, we have no reason to see it again.
- While lying under a tree, a bee stung his left ear.
- Correct: While John was lying under a tree, a bee stung his left ear.