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A modifier is a word or a phrase that describes another word or phrase. The most familiar examples are adjectives and adverbs.

  • Errors in Modifiers
    Normally, errors in modifier are not the grammatical error; rather they are the error of English usage giving an altogether different meaning than what they are supposed to.
    For example, consider the statement:
Example 1 :- 

A signboard at a restaurant says:

We provide restrooms for the ladies that are clean and comfortable.
& Analyzing this sentence, there is no grammatical error, but the phrase is wrongly, placed giving rise to ambiguity in the meaning.

Restaurant meant to propagate the message that they provide clean and comfortable restrooms for the ladies, but what is conveyed is entirely different message – that they provide the restrooms only to clean and comfortable ladies.

So the correct message should be—We provide clean and comfortable restrooms for ladies.


Example 2 :-

Incorrect usage—Walking back from the village my wallet was lost.


In the given sentence it appears that the wallet lost itself—which cannot happen.



Correct usage

  1. While ‘I’ was walking back from the village my wallet was lost.
  2. Walking back from the village, I lost my wallet.
Example 3 :- 

Incorrect usage—Blinded by the storm, the car was steered in the wrong direction.


In this sentence, there is no clarity as to who steered the car.


Incorrect usage—Blinded by the storm, I or the driver steered the car in the wrong direction.


Example 4 :-

Read the following sentences and identify which one is correct:

  1. I only eat pizzas and burgers
  2. Only I eat pizzas and burgers
  3. I eat only pizzas and burgers
  4. I eat pizzas and burgers only.

Grammatically, all the four sentences are correct.

  1. 1st sentence conveys that all I do 24 hours is to eat pizzas and burgers.
  2. 2nd sentence conveys that only I (and nobody else on the earth) eat pizzas and burger.
  3. 3rd sentence conveys that I eat nothing except pizzas and burgers.
  4. 4th sentence means that I eat only pizzas and burgers.

So, it is important to choose the sentence that imparts logical and sensible meaning. Care should be taken to choose the most appropriate option as the answer.

Types of Modifier Errors


There are two types of modifier errors:

Misplaced Modifier Error

  • There may be an adjective, an adverb or a phrase which is inappropriately placed in a sentence causing a mismatch between the intended and perceived meaning of the sentence. There can be various ways to correct the sentence.

Dangling Modifier Error

  • As name suggests, this type of moditier “hangs” without a subject. The word or phrase that modifies a word is not clearly stated in the sentence. To make such sentences sensible we need to insert a subject.

Misplaced Modifiers






I could almost run all the way up the hill.

I could run almost all the way up the hill.

The first sentence does not mean what it is intended to mean. The modifier “almost” is misplaced.

I only want one.

I want only one.

Same as given above.

Dangling Modifiers





While walking in the garden, Ravi arrived.

While I was walking in the garden, Ravi arrived.

The modifying phrase “while walking in the garden” does not refer to a particular noun or pronoun (i.e., it dangles).

How to approach modifier question

  1. Objective is to make the meaning clear.
  2. First step to identify the modifier whether its a phrase, adjective or adverb.
  3. Analyse the meaning intended to be conveyed.
  4. Modify the sentence by placing the modifier next to what it is modifying.
  5. Check if the ambiguity has been done away with (making meaning clear).


In parallel structures or parallelism different parts of a sentence should be in symmetry. The symmetrical order is maintained in a sentence by using the same verb form, same tense and other parts of speech should also be same, like noun or adjective.

Consider the sentences below:

  1. I like to play guitar and singing. (Incorrect)
    I like playing guitar and singing. (Correct)
  2. Mansi likes to watch televisition, ice-creams and carrom. (Incorrect)
    Mansi likes to watch television, eat ice creams and play carrom. (Correct)
  3. The idea is fantastic but a danger. (Incorrect)
    The idea is fantastic but dangerous. (Correct)
    The concept of parallel structures is very important in the english usage section and sometimes two to three options can be eliminated because they do not follow a parallel structure in a sentence. If you see a window in a room of which one pane is painted and the other is not. This will look non-symmetrical and to make it look symmetrical you would want to paint the other pane also. This is exactly what parallelism in language does, it makes the structure symmetrical!

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