Saturday, 16 March 2013

Those Darn Dangling Participles.

Dangling Participles. Sounds scary but they really aren't. It's more a matter of common sense and a couple of rules that will correct this pesky problem.
The definition of a dangling participle:  Adjectives ending in -ing and sometimes -ed are called participles. When a participle modifies the wrong thing, then it is said to be a dangling participle or a hanging participle.

In the sentence below, the modifying clause (Rushing to catch the dragon) contains a participle (rushing). The participle is said to be dangling because the subject of the main clause (Sue's sword) is not the thing modified by the initial modifying clause. It was not Sue's sword that was rushing.

[wrong] Rushing to catch the dragon, Sue's sword fell out of its sheath.

[right] Rushing to catch the dragon, Sue realized her sword fell out of its sheath.

And in this example, the modifying clause (Running after the dragon) is dangling because it is modifying the arrows. The arrows are not running, Sue is:

[wrong] Running after the dragon, the arrows fell and broke.

 [right] Running after the dragon, Sue felt the arrows fall and watched as they broke.

Each sentence in the examples above beginning with an "ing" word is called the participle. A participle is created when we turn a verb like rush or run into a word phrase that acts like an adjective. The
participle is created by adding "ing".

          Rush becomes rushing

          Run becomes running.

An adjective must modify some noun.

The modifying clause doesn't always 

Another example:

[wrong]  Sue ran from the dragon, still holding the dragon food.

So who exactly is holding the dragon food, Sue or the dragon? As the sentence reads, the modifier clause (still holding the dragon food) modifies the dragon. If you meant to say Sue was holding the dragon food, the sentence would read like this:

[right] While still holding the dragon food, Sue ran from the dragon.

Now the sentences sound like Sue is the culprit, running away with all the dragon food. Why? We don't know. I think, sometimes, Sue just likes to tease the dragons.

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copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013


  1. Those dang dangling participles come to haunt me again. Why am I always dangling in your posts? I DO like to tease one dragon!

    Nice post. I get so confused with those dang-gone dangling participles. It seems so easy, yet what is easy is how easy it is to get them wrong. This is your second post on this, I believe. One more and I may get it.

  2. Yes, those darn dangling things are a problem. They dangle in all the wrong places, especially when Sue is the subject of the sentence.

    The other post was about misplaced and dangling modifiers, and I think Sue was left dangling in that post also.