Misplaced Modifier Examples

Misplaced Modifier

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that does not clearly relate to what it is intended to modify. In other words, a misplaced modifier makes the meaning of a sentence ambiguous or wrong.

Examples of Misplaced Modifiers

Here are some examples of misplaced modifiers (shaded):

Misplaced Modifiers Can Change the Meaning

Sometimes, a misplaced modifier is not a mistake. It just leads to an unintended meaning. Look at these sentences: These examples demonstrate that a modifier needs to be near whatever it's modifying.

How to Avoid a Misplaced Modifier

You can avoid a misplaced modifier by placing your modifier alongside whatever it's modifying. For example: Here is a correct version for the intended meaning: If the meaning were Jack can hear Jill's clear whispers, then the first version would be correct: Probably the most famous example of a misplaced modifier is not a misplaced modifier at all. Look at this well-known joke by Groucho Marx: This is not a misplaced modifier because the elephant was actually in his pyjamas.

Types of Misplaced Modifiers

There are three types of misplaced modifiers:

(1) Those that modify the wrong thing. These are the classic misplaced modifiers. This error occurs quite often with the word only.

Read more about misplacing limiting modifiers (e.g., only).

(2) Those that could feasibly modify either of two things in the sentence. These are more commonly called squinting modifiers.

(3) Those that modify nothing. These are more commonly called dangling modifiers.

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See Also

What are modifiers? What are dangling modifiers What are squinting modifiers What is a limiting modifier? Glossary of grammatical terms