It might be amusing to come into a room and gasp, “Someone in this room has a dangling participle”, then observe who looks where.  However suggestive it might sound, a dangling participle is only a crime against grammar, not a jail-able offense, although grammar nazis may disagree.

grammar nazi

A participle is merely a verb onto which someone grafted an “ing”, turning verb into adjective.  You “ride” horses and wear “riding” boots while doing so. Verb in the first instance, adjective telling what kind of boots in the second.

However, a participle by itself won’t dangle.  In order to do so, the participle has to pick up a few more words and become part of a group—a participial phrase.  “Riding in the mountain, I was filled with joy” has a participial phrase and it makes sense.  But let a participial phrase dangle, and all sort of grammatical hell breaks loose.

Riding in the mountains, the hawk screamed loudly.”  Now we have a problem and so does the horse.  This sentence asks you to believe the hawk is riding in the mountains, because “hawk” is the only subject in the sentence and the participial phrase has to grab a subject.  We all know the hawk, amazing bird that it is, is not riding a horse  in the mountains.   To make the sentence make sense, we have to say something like “Riding in the  mountains, I heard the hawk scream loudly.”

If your writing contains participial phrases,be sure to put the correct subjects right after the participial phrases.  It will make your writing much clearer and you’ll never be caught in public with your participle dangling!

  1. Bumba says:

    Thank you. I know. I’ve been caught with my participle dangling many a time.

  2. yarnspinnerr says:

    Its ages since I laughed about usage of verbs and adjectives. Reminded me of a gentleman fond of using his cane to terrorize me.

  3. Just curious.
    Whose participle was dangling that caused you to write this piece?
    And why did you look?


  4. Hate it when that happens.

  5. Lynda says:

    I was suffering from one of these today, although I didn’t know what it was called at the time. My husband complained that he “didn’t get it”, so I took a moment to reword the offending sentence. Thanks for the lovely instruction.