Dictionary.com Word FAQs
How important is it to position a modifier (adjective, adverb, clause, etc.) right by what it modifies?
We found a really cute saying: "Modifiers are like teenagers: they fall in love with whatever they're next to. Make sure they're next to something they ought to modify!" It is true that you should try to keep the modifier right by what it modifies. Modifiers applied to nouns are adjectives. Modifiers applied to verbs or adjectives are adverbs. Those that are applied to adverbs themselves are also called adverbs. Some modifiers, especially simple modifiers (e.g., only, just, nearly, barely) have a bad habit of slipping into the wrong place in a sentence. When we begin a sentence with a modifying word, phrase, or clause, we must make sure the next thing that comes along can, in fact, be modified by that modifier. When a modifier improperly modifies something, it is called a dangling modifier. This often happens with the beginning of participial phrases. A participial phrase followed by a passive verb is also apt to be dangling because the real actor or agent of the sentence will be disguised. An infinitive phrase can also dangle and should be placed to modify the actor or agent of the sentence.