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Is it a hard and fast rule that a modifier (word, phrase, or clause) is misplaced if it is not directly before or after the noun it is intended to modify? While Writer's Digest suggests that as a rule, it doesn't seem to make sense when applied to sentences with direct objects. In each example below the meaning (I think) is clear. The participial phrase refers to the subject noun instead of the closer direct object noun. The order could be rearranged to bring the phrase closer to the subject, but the result would sound stilted. Thanks in advance for any help on this subject!
John ate the last piece of cake, savoring each delicious bite.
The robber turned the corner, running into an off duty police officer.
Sara placed each of the scrolls in her backpack, giving each message its due reverence.
Ikia:That's just it: The meaning is not clear when a participial phrase or a relative clause is not placed next to the noun it modifies. I think the phrases are misplaced and would rewrite the sentences. Just my opinion.
1. John ate the last piece of cake, savoring each delicious bite.
2. The robber turned the corner, running into an off duty police officer.
3. Sara placed each of the scrolls in her backpack, giving each message its due reverence.
These seem fine to me: the participle clauses don't dangle, as their subjects match the subjects of the main clauses.
If you moved the participle clause in #1, it would sound mannered; if you moved it in #2, it wouldn't make sense; and in #3, it would create an ambiguity.
And as cakes don't savour, corners don't run, and backpacks don't behave reverentially, there's no chance of confusion.
Only my opinion too, though!
Grammar Curmudgeon If it is "a hard and fast rule that a modifier (word, phrase, or clause) is misplaced if it is not directly before or after the noun it is intended to modify," it certainly comes as a surprise to me, especially with regard to participial phrases.
MrPedanticWelcome to English Forums, Reaver!
Thank you for the welcome, and the opinion.
Anonymous:The meaning is clear. Participial phrases working as a modifier (unlike relative clauses working as a modifier) modify the entire preceding phrase, not necessarily the closest noun.
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