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Putting modifiers in their place

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Sometimes I misplace things—my sunglasses, a book I’m reading, keys, my phone. Sometimes I misplace words in sentences too, leaving a clause or a phrase where it doesn’t belong. The result is what grammarians call misplaced or dangling modifiers. It’s a sentence fault that textbooks sometimes illustrate with over-the-top, made-up examples like these: Damaged by the storm, the city closed the road for repair. A foil-wrapped behemoth, you need two hands to eat this burrito. When we have a participle like “damaged,” we naturally understand it as modifying the closest noun, which here yields a mismatch. Was the city damaged or the road? The same goes for appositive nouns like “a foil-wrapped behemoth” which, at first glance, seems to refer to “you.” Misplaced modifiers at times find their way into professional publications, like this sentence from a British Medical Journal article on brain freeze: The most common cause of head pain is ice cream, occurring in one third of a randomly. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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