A dangling participle is a participle that is said to dangle when there is no word in the sentence that the participle can modify, or when the participle or participial phrase is placed in a sentence in such a way that it unintentionally modifies another noun instead of the right word, usually the subject of the sentence, that is meant to be modified. A dangling participle can be a single participle or a participle/participial phrase. 

 

The participle is usually positioned at the beginning of the sentence to modify the noun or pronoun immediately next to it. This noun or pronoun is the subject of the sentence.

 

 

Examples:

  • Incorrect: Strolling along the beach, raindrops fell on my skin.

  • Correct: Strolling along the beach, I could feel raindrops falling on my skin.

    (In the first sentence, the participial phrase strolling along the beach is meant to modify the subject of the sentence, but there is no subject in the sentence. What we have here is the participial phrase modifying the wrong subject raindrops in the clause raindrops fell on my skin, giving the wrong meaning that the raindrops were strolling along the beach. In the second sentence, the correct subject is introduced into the sentence for the participial phrase to modify. The correct subject can only be the subjective personal pronoun I because of the possessive pronoun my used near the end of the sentence.)

      

  • Incorrect: Running quickly downstairs, a misstep caused him to fall. 

  • Correct: Running quickly downstairs, he made a misstep that caused him to fall. 
  • Incorrect: Building a new tunnel through the mountain, the initial section of the tunnel had to be dug by hand.

  • Correct: Building a new tunnel through the mountain, the workers had to dig the initial section of tunnel by hand.

 

  • Correct: Standing trial for the murder of a judge, the accused told the judge that he acted in self-defence/self-defense.
  • Correct: Having checked into the hotel, the whole family went for a walk along the beachfront.
  • Correct: Lying about two miles outside the town, my uncle’s dairy farm produces speciality/specialty cheeses.

 

 

More examples:

 

Examples:

  • He chased the monkey with his hat. 

    (He chased the monkey wearing his hat, or: The monkey had his hat?)

  • Correct: Wearing his hat, he chased the monkey.

    (The participle has to be next to the noun that it modifies. The participle wearing his hat modifies he.)

     

  • Doctor Dolt was chased by a big black bull cycling across the field. 

    (According to the sentence, the big black bull was cycling across the field, not Doctor Dolt. The present participle phrase cycling across the field is seen here wrongly modifying bull.)  

The sentence can be corrected by rewriting it as follow:

  • Correct: Cycling across the field, Doctor Dolt was chased by a big black bull.

  • Correct: Doctor Dolt cycling across the field was chased by a big black bull.