Definition of dangling participle in English:

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dangling participle


A participle intended to modify a noun which is not actually present in the text.
Example sentences
  • One way to tell whether the participle is dangling is to put the phrase with the participle right after the subject of the sentence: "Bob's printer, rushing to finish the paper, broke" doesn't sound right.
  • It also contains a nice 18th c. dangling participle not controlled by the matrix clause subject.
  • The dangling participle creates ambiguity - or simple nonsense. A careful writer learns to avoid dangling his participles.


A participle is a word formed as an inflection of the verb, such as arriving or arrived. A dangling participle is one which is left ‘hanging’ because, in the grammar of the clause, it does not relate to the noun it should. In the sentence arriving at the station, she picked up her case the construction is correct because the participle arriving and the subject she relate to each other (she is the one doing the arriving). But in the following sentence, a dangling participle has been created: arriving at the station, the sun came out. We know, logically, that it is not the sun which is arriving but grammatically that is exactly the link which has been created. Such errors are frequent, even in written English, and can give rise to genuine confusion.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dan|gling par¦ti|ciple

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