Introduction to Dangling Participles
Dangling participles can seem a daunting grammar topic, but don't worry! By the end of this tutorial, you'll be able to confidently identify, understand, and correct these common grammatical errors in your writing.
What Are Dangling Participles?
Participles are words derived from verbs that can function as adjectives or as parts of verb phrases to create verb tenses. When we talk about participles, we're discussing an element of English grammar that includes the present participle (-ing form of the verb) and the past participle (-ed form of a regular verb or various forms for irregular verbs).
A 'dangling participle' is a particular type of misplaced modifier that occurs when the word or phrase a participle is intended to modify is not clearly stated in the text. The participle, as a result, appears to be modifying an incorrect subject, causing confusion for the reader.
Identifying and Understanding Dangling Participles
One of the key problems with dangling participles is that they can change the intended meaning of a sentence, often creating amusing or bizarre interpretations. Let’s explore some examples:
Having finished the assignment, the Xbox was my next target.
Having finished the assignment, I made the Xbox my next target.
In the first sentence, it sounds like the Xbox has finished the assignment. The user intended to say that they, not the Xbox, finished the assignment.
Modifiers and Their Subjects
An essential aspect to understand about dangling participles is their relationship with their intended subjects. If the participle or participial phrase is not placed near the noun it is meant to modify, then it 'dangles'. This dangling can produce unusual or unexpected meanings. Here is another example:
Running for the bus, my bag fell in the puddle.
While I was running for the bus, my bag fell in the puddle.
In the first sentence, it's as if the bag is doing the running instead of the speaker.
How to Correct Dangling Participles
Dangling participles create confusion in sentences and make it hard to understand the writer's intention. However, they can corrected by making sure that the participle or participial phrase logically relates to the noun it modifies.
Techniques for Correction
There are several strategies you can use to fix a dangling participle:
Include the Real Subject in the Sentence
One of the most straightforward ways to fix a dangling participle is to add the noun that the participle was intended to modify. For instance:
Walking down the street, the trees were beautiful.
Walking down the street, I thought the trees were beautiful.
In the corrected sentence, it's clear that "I" am the one walking down the street, not the trees.
Change the Participle into a Subordinate Clause
Another technique is to change the dangling participle into a subordinate clause.
After reading your letter, my cat will stay indoors."
After I read your letter, my cat will stay indoors."
By adding a subject and verb (I read), the participle (reading) becomes a complete subordinate clause, eliminating the confusion.
In this tutorial, we've learned what dangling participles are, how to identify them, and techniques to correct them in your writing. These grammatical errors are commonly overlooked, but they can create confusion or misinterpret messages. By keeping these tips in mind and practicing your writing, you can avoid and correct dangling participles and ensure your writing is clear and effective.