November 08, 2007

#01-035: Funny Mistakes - Part II: Dangling Participles

a Photoshop image of a leather prosthetic leg with a sticker reading "Hello: My Name is Smith"
"I know a man with a wooden leg called Smith."
"What was the name of his other leg?" --Mary Poppins
(Wikipedia: leg, sticker)

Note: We continue looking at the sometimes-humorous results of separating a noun from its adjective (or adjective phrase) and adverb (or adverb phrase).

Get Ready: What's funny about the photo caption above? How could you fix it?

Last time I wrote about misplaced modifiers and the dangling participles. Here I repeat that information for the sake of convenience, before you try the "Practice" below.

  • Misplaced modifier: an adverb or adjective (or an adverbial or adjectival phrase) too far from the word being modified: "My mother told me I would have gray hair when I was ten." No one has gray hair at ten years old! The adverbial phrase "when I was ten" tells when my mother told me, not when I would have gray hair. Better: "My mother told me when I was ten that I would have gray hair."
  • Dangling participle: a participial phrase (for example, with a verb using -ing) too far from the noun it modifies, or, as in this example, with no modified noun (or pronoun) at all: "Walking into the room, the dinner table looked beautiful." The table was walking into the room? Better: "As I walked into the room, the dinner table looked beautiful," or, "Walking into the room, I saw the beautiful dinner table." Participial phrases should be just before or just after the noun they modify.

Now try the "Practice." And be sure to see Part I for more funny examples!


Read more:

Practice: Here are some examples of dangling participles. How can you correct the sentences? See the "Explanations" below to find out what makes them funny.

  1. A woman passed by, walking a dog in a long black dress.
  2. The coffee cup hit my hand, which then rolled off the table.
  3. After years of sitting in the closet, Joe found his old jacket.
  4. Flying low, a herd of cattle could be seen.
  5. Filled with highly flammable jet fuel, the pilot flew the plane carefully.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Explanation of "What's Funny": After you check your answers in the first comment below, read on to find out what makes these examples funny.

  1. It sounds like the dog is wearing a dress.
  2. It sounds like my hand rolled off the table.
  3. It sounds like Joe sat in the closet for ten years.
  4. It sounds like the cattle were flying low.
  5. It sounds like the pilot was filled with fuel.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 8, 2007

The parts of this lesson received 3251 visits on my old site between January, 2012, and June, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice:
    1. "A woman in a long black dress passed by, walking a dog." OR "Walking a dog, woman in a long black dress passed by."
    2. "After hitting my hand, the coffee cup rolled off the table" or "The coffee cup hit my hand and then rolled off the table."
    3. "Joe found his old jacket, which had been sitting in the closet for years." OR "After it had been sitting in the closet for years, Joe found his old jacket."
    4. "Flying low, we could see a herd of cattle." OR "We saw a herd of cattle while we were flying low."
    5. "Because the plane was filled with highly flammable jet fuel, the pilot flew it carefully." OR "The pilot flew the plane carefully because it was filled with highly flammable jet fuel."