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Arts & Letters Daily

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Misplaced Modifiers

Misplaced Modifiers: words, phrases and clauses

NOTES

Misplaced Word Modifiers

Readers expect to find modifiers directly before or after the words they modify. Certain modifiers should always come before the words they modify. They are: almost, only, even, hardly, merely, nearly, exactly, scarcely, just, and simply. Different placement of modifiers changes the meaning of the sentence and may cause confusion.

Example: My family goes to the beach only on weekends. (The modifier ‘only’ modifies ‘on weekends’. The sentence means that my family does not go to the beach on weekdays.)
My family goes only to the beach on weekends. (The modifier ‘only’ modifies ‘to the beach’. The sentence means that my family never goes to any other place on the weekends.)
Only my family goes to the beach on weekends. (The modifier ‘only’ modifies ‘my family’. The sentence means the no one else but my family goes to the beach on weekends.)

Misplaced Phrase Modifiers
Example: Venus de Milo is a statue created by a famous artist with no arms. (The modifying phrase ‘with no arms’ modifies the word ‘artist’. The modifier is misplaced.)
Created by a famous artist, Venus do Milo is a statue with no arms. (The modifying phrase ‘with no arms’ modifies the word ‘statue’. The sentence means that the statue has no arms. The modifying phrase is not misplaced.)

Misplaced Subordinate Clauses
Example:  Jason loaded the newspapers, bottles, and cans into his new truck, which he planned to leave at the recycling depot. (The subordinate clause ‘which he planned to leave at the recycling depot’, modifies the word ‘truck’. The subordinate clause is misplaced.)
Jason loaded his truck with newspapers, bottles, and cans, which he planned to leave at the recycling depot. (The subordinate clause ‘which he planned to leave at the recycling depot’, modifies the words ‘newspapers, bottles, and cans’. The subordinate clause is not misplaced.)

ASSIGNMENT

Enter the underlined word, phrase or clause in the correct column.

1. The suspension bridge swayed in the wind across the river.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

2. The suspension bridge across the river swayed in the wind.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

3. Just Donna went to the wedding in Pittsburgh.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

4. Donna just left for the wedding in Pittsburgh.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

5. The building was designed by a team of architects with striking colored glass panels.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

6. The building with striking colored glass panels was designed by a team of architects.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

7. The recommended healthy diet guidelines, that emphasize eating more fruits and vegetables, should improve public health.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

8. The recommended healthy diet guidelines should improve public health that emphasizes eating more fruits and vegetables.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

9. A feature story announced the merger of two communications companies in the Wall Street Journal.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

10. A feature story in the Wall Street Journal announced the merger of two communications companies.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

11. Mike watched the dark and threatening thunder clouds gather in the western sky.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

12. Dark and threatening, Mike watched the thunder clouds gather in the west.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

13. The discussion, that we had in class today, forced me to rethink my position.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

14. The discussion forced me to rethink my position, that we had in class today.

Correctly placed word modifier
Misplaced word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

15. Rolling down the steep hill, Fred watched the truck.

Correctly placed word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

16. Fred watched the truck rolling down the steep hill.

Correctly placed word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

17. The manager explained the sales figures to the board members, that were displayed on a graph.

Correctly placed word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

18. The manager explained the sales figures that were displayed on a graph to the board members.

Correctly placed word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

19. Kevin had been studying to pass his final exams for a long time.

Correctly placed word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

20. Kevin had been studying for a long time to pass his final exams.

Correctly placed word modifier
Correctly placed phrase modifier
Misplaced phrase modifier
Correctly placed clause modifier
Misplace clause modifier

Answer Key

Misplaced Modifiers

1. The suspension bridge swayed in the wind across the river.

Answer – across the river – misplaced phrase modifier

2. The suspension bridge across the river swayed in the wind.

Answer –  across the river – correctly placed phrase modifier

3. Just Donna went to the wedding in Pittsburgh.

Answer –    Just – correctly placed word modifier

4. Donna just left for the wedding in Pittsburgh.

Answer – just – correctly placed word modifier

5. The building was designed by a team of architects with striking colored glass panels.

Answer –     with striking colored glass panels – misplaced phrase modifier

6. The building with striking colored glass panels was designed by a team of architects.

Answer – with striking colored glass panels – correctly placed phrase modifier

7. The recommended healthy diet guidelines, that emphasize eating more fruits and vegetables, should improve public health.

Answer – that emphasize eating more fruits and vegetables, should improve public health – correctly placed clause modifier

8. The recommended healthy diet guidelines should improve public health that emphasizes eating more fruits and vegetables.

Answer –  that emphasize eating more fruits and vegetables, should improve public health – misplaced clause modifier

9. A feature story announced the merger of two communications companies in the Wall Street Journal.

Answer –    in the Wall Street Journal – misplaced phrase modifier

10. A feature story in the Wall Street Journal announced the merger of two communications companies.

Answer – in the Wall Street Journal – correctly placed phrase modifier

11. Mike watched the dark and threatening thunder clouds gather in the western sky.

Answer – the dark and threatening thunder – correctly placed phrase modifier

12. Dark and threatening, Mike watched the thunder clouds gather in the west.

Answer –    dark and threatening – misplaced phrase modifier

13. The discussion, that we had in class today, forced me to rethink my position.

Answer – that we had in class today – correctly placed clause modifier

14. The discussion forced me to rethink my position, that we had in class today.

Answer –    that we had in class today – misplaced clause modifier

15. Rolling down the steep hill, Fred watched the truck.

Answer – Rolling down the steep hill – misplaced phrase modifier

16. Fred watched the truck rolling down the steep hill.

Answer –     Rolling down the steep hill – correctly placed phrase modifier

17. The manager explained the sales figures to the board members, that were displayed on a graph.

Answer –  that were displayed on a graph – misplaced clause modifier

18. The manager explained the sales figures that were displayed on a graph to the board members.

Answer – that were displayed on a graph – correctly placed clause modifier

19. Kevin had been studying to pass his final exams for a long time.

Answer –    for a long time – misplaced phrase modifier

20. Kevin had been studying for a long time to pass his final exams.

Answer –     for a long time – correctly placed phrase modifier