Dangling Phrases and Clauses



With all of the shouting and controversy surrounding the election, we thought it might be a good time for a lighter—but still instructive—grammar topic this week. Today, we are repeating a classic from GrammarBook.com’s founder, Jane Straus, from March 2008.


When phrases or clauses are misplaced in a sentence, such that they don’t agree with the subject, sometimes funny or even embarrassing meanings and images will result. Danglers are difficult for us to spot when we write them because we can’t always see that what we have written is not what we meant to express.

Example: While walking across the street, the bus hit her.
Did the bus really walk across the street?

Correction:
While she was walking across the street, the bus hit her. OR
The bus hit her while she was walking across the street.

Example: I have some pound cake that Mollie baked in my lunch bag.
Did Mollie actually bake the pound cake in my lunch bag?

Correction: In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake that Mollie baked.

Now that you are alerted to danglers, perhaps you will be able to appreciate some of the bloopers below (not all of which contain danglers) even more. Thank you to Hu O. for sending these.

  • The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
  • The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”
  • Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
  • Don’t let worry kill you off–let the Church help.
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang “I Will Not Pass This Way Again” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
  • For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • Irving B. and Jessie C. were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, at 11:00 pm

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8 Comments on Dangling Phrases and Clauses

8 responses to “Dangling Phrases and Clauses”

  1. Carol Kent says:

    Here’s one of my favorites from my 8th grade students (we were studying adverbs):
    “Walking briskly down the street, an apple fell from the tree.”

  2. Kenneth muir says:

    “Roger is driving home, he’s lost, it’s getting dark, and he is running out of petrol.”
    Please explain why this is not considered a comma splice.

    • The sentence is written as a series of four items with the connector and before the last independent clause. Omitting and would result in a comma splice (see Rules 3a and 3b of Commas). The four independent clauses could be recast as separate sentences, as a series of individual clauses using the present progressive tense (as below), or in other ways; it’s a matter of style.

      Roger is driving home, becoming lost, losing daylight, and running out of petrol.

  3. Elaine Lawson says:

    Why are all the negative comments about church activities?

    • We can all benefit from laughing at ourselves from time to time. They aren’t negative comments, but rather examples of everyday writings that intended to instruct but became humorous because of inadvertent dangling modifiers.

  4. Sandra M. says:

    This is the best laugh I’ve had all day! Thank you!

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