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Hi,

I have the sentence :

They are a big danger, causing many deaths each year.

Because of the presence of the comma in the sentence, I think the phrase "causin many deaths each year" modifies the subject "they". Hence, it must be placed near the word "they". I mean, the sentence should be :

Causing many deaths each year, they are a big danger.

This sentence is from an acticle, and I'm sure it's correct. Can the participial be placed like that?
Please give some advice. Thanks you very much.
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Comments  
Hi,

Generally speaking, it's acceptable either way. In your example, the writer's main message seems to be that 'they are a big danger'. 'Causing many deaths each year' seems simply to be additional information, rather like an afterthought. That;s why he put it at the end of the sentence.

Clive
Participle clauses function as free modifiers frequently. A free modifier is a phrase or non-finite clause that is outside the BSP (Basic sentence pattern). Therefore, a comma is needed to show it is additional, parenthetical information.

Free modifiers do not have to be placed next to the word they modify, because it is clear what they modify. Phrases and clauses that are placed away from the words the modify and consequently are ambiguous are not free modifiers and thus need to be placed next to the words they modify.

When the free modifier ends the sentence (such as in your sentence), it creates a cummulative sentence--a popular style among writers these days because it puts forth the main idea early and then elabourates on it, without having to create a new sentence, which shows a weaker relationship between the two related ideas.

If a participle clause ends the sentence but has no preceding comma, then it is not a free modifier and thus must modify the noun to which it's closest:

I saw a man, walking home. --this modifies I and is a free modifier

I saw a man walking home. --this modifies man and is not a free modifier
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Clive Hi,

Generally speaking, it's acceptable either way. In your example, the writer's main message seems to be that 'they are a big danger'. 'Causing many deaths each year' seems simply to be additional information, rather like an afterthought. That;s why he put it at the end of the sentence.

Clive

Hi Clive,

Thanks you for replying so quickly.

james doCan the participial be placed like that?
Yes. It certainly can. Participial constructions have no fixed semantic value and no required position in a sentence. In this case the participial explains the main clause. The explanation is placed quite naturally after what it explains.

They are a big danger.

Why? / How do we know this?
Because they cause many deaths each year.

They are a big danger, considering that they cause many deaths each year.

I don't quite see this as a case of modification of they.

CJ
Are you talking about the original not modifying the subject or your version?

They are a big danger, causing many deaths each year.

I would push my amature opinion in this case. They, which cause many deaths each year, are a big danger.
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CalifJim
james doCan the participial be placed like that?
Yes. It certainly can. Participial constructions have no fixed semantic value and no required position in a sentence. In this case the participial explains the main clause. The explanation is placed quite naturally after what it explains.

They are a big danger.

Why? / How do we know this?

Because they cause many deaths each year.

They are a big danger, considering that they cause many deaths each year.

I don't quite see this as a case of modification of they.

CJ

Hi CJ,

Firstly, thanks you for your advice.

I forgot. The participal phrase is not only used to modify a noun or pronoun, but also to indicate time, cause or reason, condition, contrast.

When it is used for such purpose, can it be placed at wherever we like in the sentence?

And when it is used to modify a word, must it be placed right next to that word?
English 1b3Are you talking about the original not modifying the subject or your version?
The original. Participials are so vague about their semantic relationship to the main clause that it's sometimes impossible to say that a given example of such a construction is unequivocally related in one way or another to its companion clause.

If it were a case of a non-restrictive phrase, I would be more inclined to see modification at work. Here we restrict the X's through modification:

Those X's [causing / that cause] many deaths are a big danger.

The original doesn't restrict they to "a certain they"; it just adds more information that explains in what way 'they', whatever they are, constitute a danger.

CJ
james doWhen it is used for such purpose, can it be placed at wherever we like in the sentence?
Yes. More or less. But the beginning and end are the most usual places to put it.
james dowhen it is used to modify a word, must it be placed right next to that word?
That is certainly the best place to put it. Yes. But there is no grammatical rule that says you must place it there. There are many cases where the wrong placement of such a construction creates unintended meanings, some of them humorous, and of course you want to avoid those by doing what you can to locate the participial where it makes the most sense.

CJ
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