The Case of the Dangling Participle

Dangling Participle t-shirt

Yesterday, I came across this photo of a t-shirt I wouldn’t mind wearing.

Dangling Participle t-shirt

I actually found it really funny, so I shared it on our Facebook page. (If you don’t visit it regularly yet, I suggest you do!) The ensuing discussion from our readers inspired me to write a quick post for the Grammar Guide.

What is a dangling participle?

To make it simple, let’s take a look at a few sentences.

Looking around the kitchen, the shelves needed to be restocked.
Starving like a lion, the pot roast disappeared within a few minutes.

An untrained eye may take a cursory look at the sentences and see nothing wrong with them. If you take another look, though (or if you’re a grammar “enthusiast”), you’ll see that there is no one doing the action. The first part of the sentence dangles. It does not have a noun who does the action!

How to fix the problem

Once you’ve spotted the problem, the fix is easy. Simply insert the doer of the action. Using the examples above, we have the correct sentences.

Looking around the kitchen, I saw that the shelves needed to be restocked.
Starving like a lion, I made the pot roast disappear within a few minutes.

Much like many other grammar mistakes, it is rather easy to slip up now and then. Don’t beat yourself up over it if you do find yourself making this mistake. Just proofread and make sure you make the proper adjustments.

What about ending a sentence with a preposition?

This subject has been talked about so much that it’s pretty much a non-issue for me, but just in case you do still have problems with ending a sentence with a preposition, do take a look at that t-shirt again.

If you want to have a little bit more fun with this topic, I suggest reading “Churchill on Prepositions“.



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