A dangling modifier (a specific case of which is the dangling participle) is an ambiguous grammatical construct, often considered an error in prescriptivist accounts of English, whereby a grammatical modifier could be misinterpreted as being associated with a word other than the one intended, or with no particular word at all. For example, a writer may have meant to modify the subject, but word order makes the modifier seem to modify an object instead. Such ambiguities can lead to unintentional humor or difficulty in understanding a sentence in formal contexts.
A typical example of a dangling modifier is illustrated in the sentence Turning the corner, a handsome school building appeared. The modifying clause Turning the corner is clearly supposed to describe the behaviour of the narrator (or other observer), but grammatically it appears to apply to nothing in particular, or to the school building. Similarly, in the sentence At the age of eight, my family finally bought a dog, the modifier At the age of eight "dangles," attaching to no named person or thing (or possibly seems to imply that the family was eight years old when it bought the dog, rather than the intended meaning of giving the narrator's age at the time).
Famous quotes containing the word dangling:
“And, indeed, is there not something holy about a great kitchen?... The scoured gleam of row upon row of metal vessels dangling from hooks or reposing on their shelves till needed with the air of so many chalices waiting for the celebration of the sacrament of food. And the range like an altar, yes, before which my mother bowed in perpetual homage, a fringe of sweat upon her upper lip and the fire glowing in her cheeks.”
—Angela Carter (19401992)