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Dangling Modifiers – The Concepts And Correction

We have already discussed modifier phrases at different places. However, it is advisable to put all the infomation at one place to discuss the dangling modifier error in depth.

  1. Modifier Phrases Frequently Used in G-matic English
    You will find a variety of modifier phrases in G-matic sentences. The G-matic English uses these modifiers to compress a lot of infomation into concise structures and to confuse you with convoluted structures in sentence correction questions. And, of course, the test makers use the modifiers to give dangling modifier errors.
    I will list out those possible phrases and explain each with examples so that you can have a better understanding. (Please note that I have violated some traditions of
    grammar to facilitate your understanding of dangling modifier)
    1. An ‘ing’ modifier phrase
      An ing form and the words dependent on it constitute a modifier phrase. In the following examples, the ing phrases are italicized.
  • Working round the clock and sometimes risking their lives, the firefighters was finally able to put out the last of the bush fire.
  • Following the example of many newspapers that offer free versions online, television is making a run at putting its programs online for free and is testing whether consumer behavior and, thus, advertising dollars, will follow.
  1. An ‘ed’ phrase
    An –ed (third form of the irregular verb) and the words dependent on it constitute an ed phrase. The italicized parts in the following are such phrases.
  • Frozen since December, the pond is surely safe now to skate.
  • Confronted with the protesters who were demanding for the return of the democracy, the security forces fired into the crowd killing one person and wounding five.
  1. An adjective phrase
    An adjective and the dependent words form an adjective phrase. These are italicized in the following.
  • Apprehensive about the international criticism it might have to face, the military has begun an investigation into deaths linked to two combat operations in recent days against insurgents believed to be connected to the terrorist group.
  • Unfavorable for tree development because of its low temperatures and short growing seasons, tundra climate allows the growth of few plants, such as short shrubs, grasses and mosses.
  1. A noun phrase
    A noun and the words dependent on the noun forms a noun modifier phrase which adds infomation to the noun present either before or after it. We may also consider it an appositive.
  • An art critic acclaimed to be a scholar of classical painting, Roger Fry later became an advocate of more recent French painting called Post-Impressionism.
  • Stars adored by almost all pop music lovers, the members of the Pop music band find it very hard to find a private moment.
  1. An absolute phrase
    Any of the above phrases with a preceding noun modified by the modifier phrase is an absolute phrase. These may be present at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the sentence. Remember, these are almost always are used in formal language only.

Study the following examples.

  • Several works of ancient authors written in Latin, aspiring literary critics of ancient literature need to master the language first.
  • Written records unavailable and physical evidence degraded by weather phenomena, study of ancient literature always necessitates a pinch of speculation, which is not much respected by the scientific method.
  • Different races having different beliefs and different kinds of people perceiving value systems in a varied manner, religions in the world are as diverse as are the people.

The problem with this structure is that the sentences with this structure always sound odd. It is important to note that the absolute phrase (sometimes called nominative phrase) modifies, not any noun or verb in particular, but the whole situation present in the main, generally giving causal relation.


The above sentences can be understood as given below.

  • Because several works of ancient authors were written in Latin, aspiring literary critics of ancient literature need to master the language first.
  • Since written records are unavailable and physical evidence was degraded by weather phenomena, study of ancient literature always necessitates a pinch of speculation, which is not much respected by the scientific method.
  • As different races have different beliefs and different kinds of people perceive value systems in a varied manner, religions in the world are as diverse as are the people.

By observing the above sentences closely, you can understand how the nominatives are formed: we simply omit the conjunctions and be forms or change the main verb into an ing form (active participle).

  1. A prepositional phrase
    A prepositional phrase, which starts with a preposition can be at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the sentence. If it modifies a noun, it should be present immediately after the noun. If it modifies a verb, it should be as near as the verb modified.
  • After walking through almost impossible terrain for nearly four hours, our bodies were sourly in need of rest.
  • Before finishing the research to identify the effects of the new drug on human subjects, the doctors have not understood how invaluable the drug is going to be.
  1. A ‘to infinitive’ (to+ first from) phrase
    To infinitive phrase which is mostly used to indicate purpose can be at the beginning of the sentence modifying the subject of the sentence.
  • To study the influence of ozone depletion on oceans, the oceanographers have started analyzing sediments from the bottoms of the oceans.
  • To develop a foreign policy that would firmly establish America as a strong power during the Cold War, John F Kennedy deployed a new generation of foreign policy experts commonly called the best and the brightest.
  1. An elliptical clause
    An elliptical clause is a clause in which essential words or phrases are omitted as they can be understood from context. Though this cannot be considered a modifier phrase, we study this in this section because of its relevance in dangling modifier error we are going to discuss.

Study the following examples to understand the concept.

  • Though lovely hosts, with their rich coffees and chocolates and cheeses, Italians were less than enthused about attending the Games.
    (The full clause is ‘though Italians are lovely hosts with their rich coffees and chocolates and cheeses’. The italicized words are omitted for verbal economy!)
  • If used persistently, any pesticide will be counter-productive as it encourages the pesticide-resistant organisms.
     
    (‘if used persistently’ = if it is used persistently. The required words in the elliptical clause can be easily guessed without any ambiguity. This is quite important as we SHOULD NOT use ellipsis when ambiguity is resulted after ellipsis.)

Implications of Modifier Phrases in G-matic Sentences

In most of the GMAT sentences, some modifier phrases discussed above (ing or ed phrases, adjectival phrases and even noun phrases) express either causal (cause and effect) relationship or temporal (time-related) relationship. This understanding is quite important when you are working with difficult G-matic sentences.


Study the following examples to understand the implications of use of modifier phrases.

  • Having expressly declared his stance on the issue, the President finds it difficult to revert to his earlier position. (= Because he has expressly declared his stance on the issue, the president finds it difficult to revert to his earlier position.)
  • A conservative person by nature, he never indulges in extremes. (= Because he is a conservative person by nature, he never indulges in extremes.)
  • Happy at the turn of events, she could not ask for more. (= Because she was happy at the turn of events, she could not ask for more.)
  • Realizing that there was no hope to save his business, he gave up. (=After he realized that there was no hope to save his business, he gave up.)

Dangling Modifier Errors

 The modifier present at the beginning of the sentence should modify the subject of the sentence. If the modifier does not modify the subject, whatever that is used as the subject is taken as the noun modified by the modifier phrase. Then the sentence becomes illogical. This error is called dangling modifier error.


It is important to note that some of the following examples are not dangling modifier errors in the strict sense of the word dangling. For a modifier to be dangling, the noun modified must not be present in the sentence. However, 
I took liberty to use this concept beyond this definition to make the following discussion more applicable to G-matic sentences.


Look at the following examples with dangling modifier errors.

* Implementing new strategies of marketing, new sales targets have been easily achieved.

In the sentence, the modifier phrase implementing new strategies of marketing is the modifier phrase and it seems to be modifying new sales targets. This is illogical, for new sales targets cannot implement new strategies. It is some persons who can use them. Thus the sentence is with dangling modifier error.

* Having found a new gene that controls aging process, anti-aging drugs are not a distant dream.

In this sentence, the modifier phrase – having found a new gene that controls aging process – modifies the subject anti-aging drugs, giving a sense that anti-aging drugs have found a new gene. This is illogical as it is the scientists who have found the gene. Thus, this sentence too is with dangling modifier error.


You are going to see more of these examples in the next section in which we discuss the different ways of correcting the dangling modifier errors.


Correction of Dangling Modifier Errors

It is very important to note that most GMAT preparation books and materials concentrate only on dangling modifier errors with ‘ing’ or ‘ed’ forms (participle phrases). You should keep in mind that this error is possible with all the seven modifiers we discussed earlier.


We can correct dangling modifier errors using three methods which will be discussed below in detail. Study each method carefully and understand how the correction is made.

  1. We can correct the error by changing subject in such a way as the modifier phrase at the beginning modifies the subject.

Study the following examples to see how this way of correction works.

* Implementing new strategies of marketing, new sales targets have been easily achieved.

*Implementing new strategies of marketing, the sales persons have easily achieved new sales targets.

The noun ‘the sales persons, which is logically modified by the initial phrase is made the subject of the sentence.

* Having found a new gene that controls aging process, anti-aging drugs are not a distant dream.

* Having found a new gene that controls aging process, scientists now feel that anti-aging drugs are not a distant dream.

The noun logically modified by the modifier phrase is made the subject of the sentence to correct the error.

* To improve company’s profits, some deficiencies in marketing were pointed out by the consultant.

* To improve company’s profits, the consultant pointed out some deficiencies in marketing.


Explanation: the noun that is logically modified by the modifier phrase is used as subject to correct the error. Some further discussion is needed in the case of the last example.

* To play well, practice is needed.

? Practice is needed to pay well.

Many of us feel that the second sentence is correct. But, to go by strict rule, the second sentence is also questionable. Because of the widespread use, it is considered informal.

*To play well, one needs good practice.

*One needs good practice to play well.
 

Example
Following the example of many newspapers that offer free versions online, many programs that are telecast by television channels are given online for free
A. many programs that are telecast by television channels are given online for free
B. we can see online many programs telecast by television channels for free.
C. we can see for free online many programs telecast by television.
D. television channels are now offering many programs online for free.
E. television channels online are now offering many programs for free.
Solution
Explanation: the given sentence starts with a modifier and the subject many programs is not correctly modified by the modifier phrase. Thus, the sentence is incorrect. Options B and C repeat the problem; though the subject has been changed, this changed subject too creates dangling modifier error. Option D and E correct this problem. However, in option E, online is used with television channels giving the wrong sense. In fact, the adverbial online is related to the verb offered and must be placed with it. Thus, the correct option is D.
  1. We can correct this error is by changing the modifier phrase into a subordinate clause
     

    The second way to correct the dangling modifier error is to change the modifier phrase into a subordinate clause with relevant conjunction.

Study the following examples to see how we correct the dangling modifier error using this method.

* Wishing to reach the users of social networks, such as Facebook and My Space, there are two choices for the marketers: buying advertising and starting spiral marketing.

* When/if marketers wish to reach the users of social networks, such as Facebook, and My Space, there are two choices for the marketers: buying advertising and starting spiral marketing.

This original sentence is corrected by changing the modifier phrase into a subordinate when/if clause.

* Once used to relate primarily to products, businesses are now using the term ‘innovation’ in relation to services also.

Even though the term was once used to relate primarily to products, businesses are now using the term ‘innovation’ in relation to services also.

The dangling modifier error present in the original sentence is corrected by the changing the modifier phrase into a subordinate clause with the conjunction even though.

* If paid within ten days, you can receive a 5% discount. (Incorrect as the elliptical clause is not modifying the subject.)

*If the sale amount is paid within ten days, you can receive a 5% discount.

In the sentence, the original modifier itself is a subordinate clause. But it is with ellipsis. This ellipsis has caused in the modification error. We corrected it by using the logical noun in the subordinate clause.

 

Example
Although inconclusive on their own, economists consider the recent studies as the milestone in microeconomic research.
A. Although inconclusive on their own, economists consider the recent studies as the milestone in microeconomic research.
B. Although inconclusive on their own, the recent studies are considered to be milestones in microeconomic research.
C. Although they are inconclusive on their own, economists consider the recent studies milestones in microeconomic research.
D. Despite the fact that the studies are inconclusive, the recent studies are considered milestones in microeconomic research.
E. Although the studies are inconclusive on their own, economists consider the recent studies the milestones in economic research.
Solution
Explanation: the elliptical clause at the beginning of the sentence is dangling. It seems to mean that ‘the economists are inconclusive on their own’. This is illogical sense. Moreover, it is using unidiomatic expression consider… as. When we use the verb consider, we should not use as or to be after it.
Option A: the elliptical clause is dangling and the use of consider … as is incorrect.
Option B: though the elliptical clause is correctly modifying the subject the recent studies, the use of
consider … to be makes this option incorrect.
Option C: despite the correction of dangling error, the pronoun they seems to refer to economists. It should logically refer to studies. This makes this option incorrect.
Option D: though the sentence is correct in modification, the use of despite the fact that… makes it wordy and thus stylistically incorrect.
Option E: correct. The problem of dangling modifier is solved by the use of a subordinate clause and furthermore, the pronoun reference problem is solved by using appropriate noun in the place of the pronoun. Thus, this is the best option.
  1. We can correct the dangling modifier error by ‘prefixing’ the noun related.
    This type of correction is nothing but creating an absolute phrase, which we studied in earlier part. All we need to do is to identify the noun that is logically modified by the modifier phrase and to place it before the modifier phrase.

Study the following incorrect sentence with dangling modifier error and understand how this error is corrected by developing the absolute phrase.

* Seeking a genuine sense of place, which is ever
more elusive in these days of globalization, ethnic restaurants in tourist spots are offering traditional dishes.

* The tourists seeking a genuine sense of place, which is ever more elusive in these days of globalization, ethnic restaurants in tourist spots are offering traditional dishes.

The initial modifier phrase should logically modify the noun tourists. However, this noun is not the subject of the sentence. To correct this error, we simply added this noun to the modifier phrase, developing an absolute phrase.
 

Example
Each of the measures important in its own way in rebalancing the economic cycles, countries facing economic crisis are finding it hard to prioritize the different remedial measures to invigorate their economies.
A. Each of the measures important in its own way in rebalancing
B. Each of the measures are important in its own way in rebalancing
C. As each of the measures are important in their own way in rebalancing
D. All these measures are important in rebalancing in their own ways
E. Because each of the measures is important in their own way in balancing
Solution
Explanation: the given sentence has the sense that as each measure is important, countries in crisis find it difficult to prioritize. The sentence gives the correct sense without unnecessary wording. Thus, the given sentence is correct as it is.
Option A: correct. The absolute phrase correctly modifies the whole sentence and this is correct option.
Option B: the option has subject-verb agreement error as it uses plural verb for singular each. Moreover, there is conjunction to connect the main clauses. This is a comma splice error.
Option C: though correct conjunction is used, the sentence contains not only subject verb agreement error but also pronoun reference error. their cannot be used to refer to each.
Option D: this option requires a conjunction to connect it to the remaining part of the sentence. In the absence of conjunction, an error of run-on sentence is resulted. Moreover, the prepositional phrase in their way should be correctly placed after important.
Option E: though other problems have been solved, the pronoun reference problem persists because of the use of plural their.
 

 

Dangling modifier
In the following questions, you find two versions of same sentences. Identify the correct sentence and try to understand how each correction is made.
1.

  1. In reviewing the company’s policy, three areas of improvement were identified by the committee.
  2. In reviewing the company’s policy, the committee identified three areas of improvement.

2.

  1. Baked, boiled, or fried, potatoes can be a part of almost any meal.
  2. Baked, boiled, or fried, you can make potatoes a part of almost any meal.

3.

  1. To improve typing skills, practice is needed.
  2. To improve typing skills, we need practice.

4.

  1. Turning the corner, the view was quite different.
  2. Turning the corner, we found the view to be quite different.

5.

  1. When ten years old, his father gave him the gift.
  2. When he was ten years old, his father gave him the gift.

6.

  1. The director of the Manhattan Project during World War II, the development of the atomic bomb was overseen by Oppenheimer.
  2. The director of the Manhattan Project during World War II, Oppenheimer oversaw the development of the atomic bomb.

7.

  1. In reviewing the case that has been become controversial because of the minority issue involved, several sensitive issues are to be addressed by the committee.
  2. In reviewing the case that has been become controversial because of the minority issue involved, the committee is to address several sensitive issues.

8.

  1. After completing a long, exacting study of statistical correlations between intelligence, character, race and poverty, the reader is rewarded with a stale exploration of the demerits of the welfare state.
  2. After completing a long, exacting study of statistical correlations between intelligence, character, race and poverty, just a stale exploration of the demerits of the welfare state is the reward to the reader.

9.

  1. Ranging from small demonstrations to larger protests, and from petty vandalism to an arson attack on the college building that houses the vivisection research, the scientists of the university laboratory were not ready to comment on the activities of the Animal Rights Association.
  2. The attacks of the activists ranging from small demonstration to larger protests, and from petty vandalism to an arson attack on the college building that houses the vivisection research, the scientists of the university laboratory were not ready to comment on the activities of the Animal Rights Association.

10.

  1. The issue no longer investigated by the Defense Department, the United States Air Force began investigating Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) in 1948 under a program called Project SETI, which was rechristened later as Project Blue Book.
  2. No longer investigated by the Defense Department, the United States Air Force began investigating Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) in 1948 under a program called Project SETI, which was rechristened later as Project Blue Book.

 Keys

  1. (b) The prepositional phrase can logically modify the committee, but not three areas of improvement.
  2. (a) The three initial modifiers can logically modify potatoes.
  3. (b) The initial infinitive phrase can modify the subject we only.
  4. (b) The view cannot turn the corner. Thus b is the correct sentence
  5. (b) The first sentence gives this sense that when his father is ten years old his father game him the gift. This is illogical. So, the second sentence is the correct sentence.
  6. (b) The initial noun phrase cannot modify the subject the development. So, second sentence is correct.
  7. (b) The sensitive issues cannot interview! So the second sentence is correct.
  8. (a) The exploration cannot complete the study. So first one is the correct sentence.
  9. (b) The first one is with dangling modifier error. The second sentence, which is with absolute phrase, is correct.
  10. (a) The Air Force cannot be modified by the initial modifier phrase. Thus the sentence is corrected by prefixing the logical noun the issue to the modifier phrase.

 





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