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Modifiers

Dr Richa
07/02/2018 0 0

i. Most writing would be quite boring and dry without modifiers!

ii. A Modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that provides description in a sentence.

Katie spilled her milk. Now let's add some modifiers:

Careless Katie, who was rushing through lunch so she could go play with her best friend, Maria, absentmindedly reached forward to grab her glass of chocolate milk, spilling it into cascading droplets down the side of the red checkered tablecloth.

Hmmm... which sentence paints a more vivid picture of what the writer was thinking in his head?

  • Careless: Adjective
  • Who was rushing through lunch so she could go play with her best friend, Maria: Adjective clause best: Adjective
  • Absentmindedly: Adverb
  • Forward: Adverb
  • To grab her topped-off glass of chocolate milk: Infinitive phrase
  • Her: Adjective
  • Topped-off: Adjective
  • Of chocolate milk: Prepositional phrase
  • Chocolate: Adjective
  • Spilling it into cascading droplets down the side of the red checkered tablecloth: Participle phrase cascading:  Aadjective
  • Red: Adjective
  • Checkered: Adjective
Modifiers breathe life into sentences! Look at this ordinary sentence:

i. Modifiers can be adjectives:

a. Adjective clauses adverbs
b. Adverb clauses infinitive phrases participle phrases prepositional phrases and more

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that is not clearly and logically related to the word(s) it modifies (sits next to). As a result, the phrase is left dangling (is unclear and "hanging" or "dangling") because of confused/misinterpreted meaning. This confused meaning often results from a word or two not being present in the sentence.

Examples:

1. When ten years old, my father went to car repair school.

Confusion: Your father was really only ten when he went to school for car repair?

Possible Corrected Sentences:

i. When I was ten years old, my father went to car repair school.

ii. My father went to car repair school when I was ten years old.

Note: If the person who was ten years old was the person writing the sentence, then that person must somehow be indicated somewhere in the sentence (thus adding the "I" in both sentences).

2. Standing in the middle of the street, a car will hit you.

Confusion: A car is standing in the middle of the street, and this car will hit you?

Possible Corrected Sentences:

i. Standing in the middle of the street, you will be hit by a car.

ii. A car will hit you if you stand in the middle of the street.

iii. If you stand in the middle of the street, a car will likely hit you.

iv. Joshua, if you stand in the middle of the street, a car will probably hit you.

Note: As in the previous sentence above (about car repair school), the person referred to that is standing in the middle of the street needs to somehow be inserted into the sentence (the you in the sentence).

A misplaced modifier is a modifier (word, phrase, or clause) that describes something it is not intended to... because of where it has been placed in a sentence or really because of where it has been misplaced.
An error of position, then, is the issue. As with dangling modifiers, misplaced modifier often sound awkward, confusing, or even ridiculous, making sentences humorous at times.

Examples:

1. On his way home from the park, Matthew found a gold woman's ring.

Confusion:: The woman was gold in color?

Possible Corrected Sentences:
On his way home from the park, Matthew found a woman's gold ring.

Note: If the woman's ring was made of gold, then the two pieces of information (ring & gold) need to be sitting next to each other. Generally, words that modify other words must be in very close proximity to each other for the clearest, most accurate meaning.

2. The witness saw a fence behind the shed made of barbed wire.

Confusion: The shed was made of barbed wire?

Possible Corrected Sentences:

The witness saw a fence made of barbed wire behind the shed. Behind the shed, the witness saw a fence made of barbed wire.

Note: In this case, the problem is that the modifying phrase made of barbed wire (which goes with the word fence), needs to be right next to it, not later on in the sentence.

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