What is a Dangling Participle?
“Dangling participle” may sound like a complicated term, but it’s actually quite simple. It’s a type of grammar error that happens when we’re writing or speaking. A dangling participle is a verb form (usually an “-ing” or “-ed” form) that is not clearly connected to the subject of the sentence or the word it is intended to modify. When this happens, it leads to illogical or nonsensical sentence structure and meaning. To fix a sentence with a dangling participle, adjust and rewrite the sentence so that the subject or noun performing the action described by the participle is clearly stated.
For example, “Walking through the park, the tree was beautiful.” The participle “walking” doesn’t have a clear subject to describe. It seems like the tree is doing the walking, which doesn’t make sense. This is an example of a dangling participle. To resolve a dangling participle, it’s important to make sure that the subject of the sentence matches the participle. Here’s how to correct the sentence: “Walking through the park, we saw a beautiful tree.” Now, the subject “we” matches the participle “walking,” and the sentence is clearer. Sometimes you’ll need to add a word or two to achieve clarity.
Here’s another: “Racing down the street, my bicycle hit a rock.” Here, the participle “racing” doesn’t have a clear subject. A reader or listener might ask, “Did the bicycle race down the street all by itself?” To fix this, we can make the following revision: “While I was racing down the street, my bicycle hit a rock.” Now, the subject “I” matches the participle “racing.” Therefore, dangling participles involve participial phrases that are not properly connected to the subject of the sentence.
These errors remind us that editing and proofreading your writing is very important. It’s always recommended that writers step away from a work and return to it with fresh eyes. This is a best practice for editing and revising written pieces.
In order to get better at editing sentences that contain dangling participles, practice revising the following sentences. Be flexible– you may not arrive at the exact same solution as others.
- Running through the field, the flowers bloomed in vibrant colors.
- Barking loudly, the door was opened by the dog.
- Watching the movie, popcorn was enjoyed by my friends.
In order to get better at editing sentences that contain dangling participles, choose the best solution for the sentences below. This can be a challenging task! Remember that the participle (a verb formed with an “-ing” or “-ed”) must be clearly connected to the subject of the sentence or the word it is intended to modify. Solutions can require minor changes in a sentence or the addition of simple words to add clarity.
- Walking down the street, ____________.
- the dog chased its tail
- the car sped by
- the trees appeared taller
- the wind blew fiercely
Explanation: The participial phrase “Walking down the street” lacks a clear subject. Among the given options, the only one that provides a logical subject for the participial phrase is a) “the dog” walking down the street.
- Sitting on the branch, ____________.
- the bird sang a beautiful melody
- the leaves rustled in the wind
- the sun shone brightly
- the rain poured heavily
Explanation: The participial phrase “Sitting on the branch,” requires a clear subject. Among the choices, option a) “the bird sang a beautiful melody” provides a logical subject for the participial phrase.
- Swimming in the ocean, ____________.
- the waves crashed against the shore
- the sand felt warm beneath the feet
- the seagulls flew overhead
- the dolphins played joyfully
Explanation: The sentence begins with the participial phrase “Swimming in the ocean,” but it lacks a clear subject. Among the options, option d) “the dolphins played joyfully” provides a logical subject for the participial phrase.