Sentence Structure Errors
Dangling Participles

Participle

A participle is an ing or an ed form of a verb that is used as an adjective. Therefore, it modifies a noun or pronoun.
For example, the participles turning and turned are formed from the verb to turn.

 Turning away from the traffic jam, the driver took an alternate route.

The participle and its modifiers make up a participial phrase. It must be placed next to the noun or pronoun that it modifies.

When you ask Who is turning away from the traffic jam? you get the answer the driver. The participial phrase modifies the driver. Therefore, the driver must come after the participial phrase. If not, you will have a dangling participle, which is a grammatical error.

Dangling participle

A participle is a dangling participle if there is no word for it to modify.

 Trying to avert an accident, the car was driven into the ditch.

When you ask Who is trying to avert an accident?, you get the answer the car.
However, it was the driver, not the car, who was trying to avert the accident.
Because there is neither noun nor pronoun for the participial phrase to modify, it is called a dangling participle.

 Offered a ride to the beach, the offer was refused by the picnickers.

When you ask Who was offered a ride to the beach?, you get the answer the offer.
However, it was the picnickers, not the offer, who were offered a ride to the beach.
The word that the participial phrase modifies must be placed immediately after the phrase.

Correcting a dangling participle

(1) Place the noun that the participle modifies next to the participial phrase.

 Trying to avert an accident, the driver drove the car into the ditch.
 Offered a ride to the beach, the picnickers refused the offer.

(2) Turn the participial phrase into a subordinate clause.

 As he tried to avert an accident, the driver drove the car into the ditch.
 When the picnickers were offered a ride to the beach, they refused the offer.
Practice

Correct the dangling participles in following sentences, using the most effective method.

  1. Returning to our camp after a day of salmon fishing, a bear had eaten our food.
  2. Swimming across the lake, the cabin came into view.

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