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Dangling Modifiers

Avoiding Dangling Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers

“Tossed high in the air, the dog caught the Frisbee®.” That poor dog! Obviously, “Tossed high into the air” was not intended to modify the dog. The writer meant the Frisbee®; however the one being modified is not identified, so we have a perfect case of a dangling modifier.

Following is a quick lesson to help your students. If the lesson works for your students, check out these related lessons: comparative modifiers, superlative modifiers, misplaced modifiers, and squinting modifiers (CCSS L.1). These modifier lessons are excerpts from Pennington Publishing’s full-year Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs.

Dangling Modifiers Lesson

Today we are studying dangling modifiers. Remember that an adjective modifies a noun or pronoun and answers Which one? How many? or What kind? An adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb and answers What degree? How? Where? or When? A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that serves as an adjective or adverb to describe, limit, or add to another word, phrase, or clause.

A dangling modifier is an adjective or adverb that does not have a clear connection to the word, phrase, or clause to which it refers. A dangling modifier usually takes the form of a present participle (“__ing”), a past participle (“__d,” “__t,” “__ed,” “__ en”), or an infinitive (to + the base form of a verb). To eliminate the dangling modifier, place the do-er of the sentence as the subject of the independent clause or combine the phrase and independent clause. Example: Fired from your job, your car became your home. (Your car was not fired; you were).

Sentence Diagram

Modifiers are placed to the right of the predicate after a backward slanted line in sentence diagrams. The object of comparison is placed under the modifier and is connected with a dotted, slanted line. A dangling modifier will not fit properly in a sentence diagram, because it has nothing to modify. One great reason to teach sentence diagramming; if a word or phrase does not fit, it is misused. Where might the modifiers, “Our own” be misplaced within this sentence and so create confusion? Answers: Our children loved their own presents. Their children loved our own presents.

Want to learn more about sentence diagramming and get free lesson plans? Check out “How to Teach Sentence Diagramming.”

In the sentence diagrammed below, “After learning the facts, the article was helpful” includes a dangling modifier. Did the article learn the facts or someone else? Obviously, the person being modified is not mentioned: hence, the dangling modifier.

Avoiding Dangling Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers








Mentor Text

This mentor text, written by George Bernard Shaw (the British author and humorist), uses an adjectival phrase to modify “countries” for humorous effect. Let’s read it carefully: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

Writing Application

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to respond to this quote and compose a sentence with a modifying adverbial phrase. Create your own dangling modifier if you wish.

Remember that the above lesson is just an excerpt of the full lesson from my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Want the full lesson, formatted for display, and the accompanying student worksheet with the full lesson text, practice, fill-in-the-blank simple sentence diagram, practice (including error analysis), and formative assessment sentence dictation? You’ve got it! I want you to see the instructional quality of my full-year programs. Click below and submit your email to opt in to our Pennington Publishing newsletter, and you’ll get the lesson immediately.


Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics


I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs, and the value-packed Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

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