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Hi everyone

This time I'd like to ask about dangling participle or gerund. Please look the example sentences as follows;
1. They detected the agent using a new method.
2. The agent was detected using a new method.
3. Using a new method, the agent was detected.
4. They detected the agent by using a new method.
5. The agent was detected by using a new method.
6. By using a new method, the agent was detected.
I know or feel that #2 and #3 are dangling participles but I don't feel 'danglingness' in #6 and above all in #5. I feel the phrase 'by using something' by itself as an idiomatic gerundive phrase and it is out of the control of the subject (=the agent). Am I wrong? Any comments are welcome.

paco
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Comments  
By using "by using", I believe you are absolved from any dangling in 4, 5, and 6!

1, 2, and 3 are all ambiguous because of the dangling structure. The first is the worst offender because both "they", the detectors, and "the agent" are both mentioned in the sentence and we don't know exactly to whom to ascribe the use of the new method.

CJ
Hello CJ

Thank you for the quick reply. Your objection to #1 sentence surprised me. I myself long believed there would be no problem in the sentence. By the way do you think we can be absolved from danglingness by using "by -ing" in general? How about the following sentence, for example?
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paco
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The construct "by -ing" goes a long way toward blocking the undesired reading in these potentially dangling cases, but probably not in general.

Even with the "by", this one bothers me, for example:

By looking through this high-powered microscope, the butterfly seemed even more beautiful.

Comparing with the same sentence without the "by", you see, however, that the "by" does succeed in attenuating the unwanted association - but without blocking it completely, in my opinion.

Your example in bold is perfect.
Hello CJ
By looking through this high-powered microscope, the butterfly seemed even more beautiful.

I too feel some oddness in this sentence. I think the tolerance toward danglingness differs from a person to a person. Some native speakers say it's a dangling but other native speakers say it's OK. This brings us into confusion.

paco
The idiom is "from person to person", Paco! Emotion: wink

To make the example worse:

The butterfly seemed even more beautiful when looking through the microscope.

This is shading into the problem of multiply ambiguous structures such as:

We saw a man on a hill with a telescope. (Where were we? Where was the man? Who was on the hill? Who had the telescope? ... )

I read somewhere that there is a formula for determining the total number of interpretations when you know the number of prepositional phrases in such a structure.

Later. CJ
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CJ

'From person to person' ...ahaha I made a mistake! Thank you for the correction.
We saw a man on a hill with a telescope.
Yes this sentence is really ambiguous. We can't fix the exact sense without knowing the context.

paco
It's cheering to see this discussed. Most native speakers are blithely unaware of their dangliness.

It occurs to me that if participle usage had evolved slightly differently, to allow passive participles in such cases, all would have been well, e.g.

'Having bought an apple tree at the show last week, the only problem now is where to plant it.'

would become:

'An apple tree having been bought at the show last week, the only problem now is where to plant it.'

MrP
Hello Mr P

Thank you for the comment. How about if we add 'after' before the -ing sentence?
After (my) having bought an apple tree, the only problem now is where to plant it.
Couldn't we be absolved from danglingness even in the presence of the preposition 'after'?

paco
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