What is a misplaced modifier?

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Correcting Misplaced Modifiers
What is a misplaced modifier?
How to fix misplaced modifiers
One-word modifiers
Phrase modifiers
Clause modifiers
Review A
Review B
What is a misplaced modifier?
The placement of one little word can make a big
difference.
Notice how the meaning of this sentence changes
when almost is moved from one place to another.
Almost
Everyone
everyone
has almost
has finished
finished the
the test.
test.
All
of the
come close
Most,
but students
not all, ofhave
the students
to
finishing.
have
finished.
In each position, almost
modifies a different word.
What is a misplaced modifier?
A word, phrase, or clause that seems to modify
the wrong word or word group in a sentence is
called a misplaced modifier.
Participial phrase
Tourists can stay in guest houses visiting the coast.
Noun
Noun
Are the guest houses visiting the coast?
No, it is the tourists who visit the coast.
The phrase visiting the coast should be
placed closer to tourists.
What is a misplaced modifier?
Some misplaced modifiers can be funny.
Prepositional phrase
Bo saw a deer running over a hill on his way to work.
Noun
Noun
Was the deer on his way to work?
Common sense tells us that Bo, not
the deer, was on his way to work.
But the noun deer is closer to the
modifying phrase, so it sounds as
though the deer is on his way to work.
What is a misplaced modifier?
Squinting modifiers
A misplaced modifier that seems to modify either
of two words is called a squinting modifier.
Adverb
The mayor said yesterday her opponent spoke
honestly. Verb
Verb
Did the mayor say it yesterday?
Or did her opponent speak yesterday?
What is a misplaced modifier?
A misplaced modifier can be a one-word adjective
or adverb, a phrase, or a clause.
Adjective
OR
Startled, the noise made the kitten jump in the air.
Participial phrase
OR
She has a picture of her children sitting on her desk.
Adverb clause
OR
Fred said before he left he would wash the dishes.
What is a misplaced modifier?
On Your Own
Determine whether the underlined word or phrase is a
misplaced modifier. Write M for a misplaced modifier
or C if the modifier is not misplaced.
___ 1. One observer sighted a plane through
binoculars that she could not identify.
___ 2. Please tell Terry when he gets home Mom
wants him to make dinner.
___ 3. Refreshed, we got an early start the next day.
[End of Section]
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Place modifying words, phrases, and clauses as
near as possible to the words they modify.
Scott found a book.
Where should these two phrases
be placed in this sentence?
about wasps
checking the shelves
Checking the shelves, Scott found a book about wasps.
Who was checking the shelves? Scott was.
What is about wasps? The book is.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
One-word modifiers
Be especially careful to place these modifiers right
before the word they modify, so that your meaning
is clear.
almost
even
hardly
just
merely
nearly
not
only
Mr. Reyes has read only
the essays.
=
Mr. Reyes has read the
essays but nothing else.
Only Mr. Reyes has read
the essays.
=
Mr. Reyes, and no one
else, has read the essays.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Phrase modifiers
When a sentence contains several modifying
phrases, follow these steps to make sure none of
them are misplaced.
Bill caught six fish on the lake in his
favorite spot using fancy lures.
Step 1: Find the basic sentence.
Bill caught six fish.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Phrase modifiers
Step 2: One at a time, insert the phrases near the
word or words they modify.
Phrase 1:
in his favorite spot
This phrase should modify caught.
Bill caught six fish in his favorite spot.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Phrase modifiers
Step 2: One at a time, insert the phrases near the
word or words they modify.
Phrase 2:
on the lake
This phrase should modify spot.
Bill caught six fish in his favorite spot on the lake.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Phrase modifiers
Step 2: One at a time, insert the phrases near the
word or words they modify.
Phrase 3:
using fancy lures
This phrase should modify Bill.
Using fancy lures, Bill caught six fish in his
favorite spot on the lake.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Clause modifiers
When a modifying clause seems to be misplaced,
follow these steps to fix the sentence.
Adjective clause
Curt set the vase on the table that he had made.
Step 1: Determine which word or word group the
clause should be modifying.
OR
Adjective clause
Curt set the vase on the table that he had made.
The clause should modify vase.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Clause modifiers
Step 2: Determine whether a phrase or another
clause is coming between the clause and the word
it should be modifying.
Adjective clause
Curt set the vase on the table that he had made.
Prep. phrase
The prepositional phrase
separates the adjective clause
from the noun it modifies, vase.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
Clause modifiers
Step 3: Decide where to move the phrase or
clause that is causing the confusion.
Adjective clause
Curt set the vase on the table that he had made.
Prep. phrase
Adjective clause
Curt set the vase that he had made on the table.
Moving the phrase to the end of the sentence eliminates the
confusion. Now, the clause is next to word it modifies.
How to fix misplaced modifiers
On Your Own
Revise each sentence to correct the misplaced
modifier.
1. At the meeting the mayor discussed the cost of
draining the swamp with city council members.
2. My nephew told me that he wanted to become a
doctor when he was six years old.
3. Brook and I spotted several deer kayaking down
the river.
4. The coach said in the locker room the team had
played their best.
[End of Section]
Review A
Identify the misplaced modifier in each sentence.
1. Mom promised if I would buy gas I could borrow her car.
2. The chipmunks hid the nuts they collected in the tree.
3. I found some letters my grandfather had written in
the attic.
4. The weather forecaster said yesterday the winds would
be dying down.
5. The car safely left the road that had a flat tire.
[End of Section]
Review B
Revise each sentence to correct the misplaced modifier.
1. According to the experts, the mummy had nearly been
buried for four thousand years.
2. Alex saw a wild rabbit riding his bike on the trail.
3. Remind Lyle before our trip to Greece he must get his
passport renewed.
4. Maya practiced the song she would sing onstage
repeatedly.
5. When they got off the bus, the rows of shops attracted
the tourists.
[End of Section]
The End
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