Introduction to Multiple Modifiers
Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that provide additional details about another part of the sentence. They can describe, clarify or qualify a word, phrase, or clause. In English grammar, it’s possible to use more than one modifier at the same time to describe a subject, verb or object in a sentence. Such instances are known as multiple modifiers.
Types of Modifiers
Before starting with multiple modifiers, let’s look at the types of modifiers. The two main types are :
- Adjective modifiers that modify nouns or pronouns. For instance in the sentence, ‘She has a big, bouncy, brown dog’, ‘big’, ‘bouncy’, and ‘brown’ are modifiers.
- Adverb modifiers modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. In the sentence, ‘He runs incredibly fast,’ ‘incredibly’ is an adverb modifier modifying the adverb ‘fast’.
Understanding Multiple Modifiers
When we use more than one modifier for a single noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, or adverb, we refer to them as multiple modifiers. These can help to create detailed, descriptive sentences. However, they must be used correctly to avoid ambiguity or confusion.
Correct Use of Multiple Modifiers
The best way to correctly utilize multiple modifiers is by following the order of adjectives rule in English. The general order for multiple modifiers (adjectives) when describing a noun is:
- Quantity or number
- Quality or opinion
- Proper adjective/Nationality
For example, 'I love that old, large, round, wooden table.' Here, 'old' (Age), 'large' (Size), 'round' (Shape), and 'wooden' (Material) are the modifiers describing the noun 'table'.
When you use several adverb modifiers, the order doesn't really matter. You can say "She drives incredibly, alarmingly fast," or "She drives alarmingly, incredibly fast," and both sentences are correct.
When dealing with multiple modifiers, it’s important to avoid misplaced modifiers, which occur when a modifier is positioned incorrectly, causing it to modify the wrong noun or pronoun. A sentence with a misplaced modifier often reads awkwardly or doesn’t make logical sense.
For example, 'Seen from the top, the hikers looked like ants on the mountain.' This sentence is incorrect because it suggests the hikers were seen from the top, which is likely not the case. The correct sentence should be, 'Seen from the top, the mountain made the hikers look like ants.'
Using Modifiers for Effective Writing
1. Enhancing Details
Multiple modifiers can be used to enhance your sentences by adding remarkable details. For example, 'She held the tiny, shaking, lost puppy in her hands.' Here, the modifiers 'tiny', 'shaking', and 'lost' create a vivid picture of the puppy in the reader's mind.
2. Creating Variety
By using multiple modifiers, you can add variety to your sentences and prevent repetition. Instead of writing 'She had a bag. The bag was big and red,' you can write, 'She had a big, red bag.'
3. Adding Emphasis
Modifiers can also be used to add emphasis. For example, 'It was a terribly, incredibly, unbelievably long wait.' The multiple modifiers used here underscore the extent of the long wait.
Learning to use multiple modifiers effectively can significantly enhance your writing by adding more detail, creating variety, and providing emphasis where needed. However, take care to avoid misplaced modifiers, which can confuse your reader. The key is accurate placement and following the general order for adjectives when using multiple modifiers to describe a noun. With practice, using multiple modifiers will become second nature and you will notice a marked improvement in your writing.