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What Is a Dangling Participle?

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If grammar awards were celebrated in a TV show, dangling participles would win the "funniest name" prize. Everybody knows about dangling participles because of this funny-sounding name, but many people don't really understand the concept.

It might help to take a look at a few examples first:

  • "Looking around the yard, dandelions sprouted in every corner."
  • "Eating like a hungry hippo, the pancakes disappeared from my plate within seconds."
  • "Running after the school bus, the backpack bounced from side to side."

Can you identify the problem in the sentences above? The phrase at the beginning sets us up for a noun that doesn't exist! Dangling participles "dangle" because they hang out there with nothing to support!

LOOKING AROUND THE YARD | DANDELIONS SPROUTED
Who is looking around the yard? Not dandelions! We know that the participle "looking" really refers to a person, and in the sentence that person should be "I". To fix this sentence, you should add the noun to match your modifier.
LOOKING AROUND THE YARD, I COULD SEE THAT DANEDLIONS SPROUTED IN EVERY CORNER.
Next example:
EATING LIKE A HIPPO | PANCAKES DISAPPEARED
Who is doing the eating? Not pancakes! To fix this, add the "I".
EATING LIKE A HUNGRY HIPPO, I MADE THE PANCAKES DISAPPEAR…
And the next example:
RUNNING AFTER THE BUS | BACKPACK BOUNCED
Who is running? Not the backpack!
RUNNING AFTER THE BUS, THE GIRL FELT HER BACKPACK BOUNCE…

Note: Each sentence in the examples above begins with an "ing" word called the participle. A participle is created when we turn a verb like eat or look into a word phrase that acts like an adjective. We create the participle by adding ing.

  • Look becomes looking
  • Eat becomes eating
  • Run becomes running
An adjective must modify some noun.
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