dangling participles in sentences

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					dangling participle or hanging participle or unattached participle

Walking back home yesterday, a tree nearly fell on my head. If strict logic is applied to that
sentence, it should mean that the tree was walking back home: the subject of the main clause of a
sentence (here, a tree) is assumed to be the subject of a phrase attached to the main clause – as in
Being shy, she never said a word.

But language does not always keep to the tramlines of strict logic, and it is quite common to find
attached phrases applying to some other part of the main clause (here, the 'I' implied by my head).
Such phrases usually contain participles: they are called dangling participles, or hanging
participles, or unattached participles. In the sentence above, the dangling participle is a present
participle walking, but you can also have a dangling past participle: If properly secured, you
shouldn't be able to remove the cover.

Dangling participles are not considered acceptable in standard English, so they should be avoided
in writing. Recast offending sentences so that the subject of the attached phrase is clear: As I was
walking back home yesterday a tree nearly fell on my head; If the cover is properly secured, you
shouldn't be able to remove it.

Other examples:

Bad
 Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the car seemed to run better. (The car can’t change
it’s own oil.)

Good
Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Fred found he could get much better gas mileage.

Bad
Looking at the map, the rain didn’t fall in Okeefenokee. (The rain can’t look at the
map.)

Good
Looking at the map, one can see that the rain didn’t fall in Okeefenokee.

Bad
Looking at the sounding, it shows a lot of CAPE. (“It” can’t look at the sounding.)

Good
The sounding shows a lot of CAPE.
or
Looking at the sounding, I (or you or we or one) can see it shows a lot of CAPE.

				
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posted:5/15/2009
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