Don’t you love that sound? It’s the sweet sound of burgeoning grammar awareness.
As many of you know, I converted my car into a grammarmobile, and this is the front right bumper:
Therefore, I can only assume that my fellow drivers have been honking their horns at me because they are participle danglers. Since admitting there’s a problem is said to be the first step on the road to recovery, I’m quite optimistic that we’re heading in the right direction. And it’s pretty cool that so many people, especially those driving behind me in the fast lane, know what a dangling participle is.
However, it was brought to my attention the other day that not everyone knows what it means to dangle one’s participle, so allow me to explain.
Let’s start with a non-dangling participle. Let’s call it, I don’t know, what’s the opposite of dangling? How about an erect participle? We want our participles to be erect, like this one:
Driving through the streets, I am trying to spread grammar awareness.
Driving through the streets is my participial phrase. A participial phrase is (and I am oversimplifying here, but it will work for our purposes) a phrase at the beginning of a sentence that starts with an ing word.
When a sentence opens with a participial phrase, the participial phrase should modify the subject of the sentence. And in the aforementioned sentence it does. I am the one driving through the streets.
On the other hand, here is an example of a dangling participle:
Honking their horns, I am delighted by the grammar enthusiasm of my fellow drivers.
The participle is dangling because honking their horns is not modifying the subject of the sentence, which is I; it is actually modifying my fellow drivers. Here’s one way to revise it:
Honking their horns, my fellow drivers express their grammar enthusiasm.
And now that I have clarified the definition of a dangling modifier, I have a question for you about another phenomenon I frequently experience on the road. What is the grammatical significance of sticking one’s hand out the driver’s side window and dangling the pinky, ring finger, pointer finger and thumb whilst maintaining an erect middle finger?