A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that is placed too far away from the noun that it is meant to modify, resulting in the wrong noun being modified, or that the noun it is to modify is not present in the sentence. When it happens, the sentence does not make sense and at times appears silly in a humorous way. To correct it requires moving the modifier to the only right place, which is as close as possible to the word it is to modify, or to introduce into the sentence the noun that is to be modified.
- He bought a squirrel from a friend with a bushy tail.
The phrase with a bushy tail is wrongly placed to modify friend. This says that the friend has a bushy tail.
Correct: He bought a squirrel with a bushy tail from a friend. (with a bushy tail now correctly modifies squirrel.)
More misplaced modifiers
- Five occupants of the burning building were reported burnt to death by the police.
Correct: The police reported that five occupants of the burning building were burnt to death.
- I, sitting on the couch, reading a novel that was based on a true life story.
Correct: Sitting on the couch, I read a novel that was based on a true life story.
- Looking at the sea, a boat approaching shore was noticed.
Correct: Looking at the sea, I noticed a boat approaching shore.
- Having seen the movie once, there is no reason to see it again.
Correct: Having seen the movie once, I have no reason to see it again.
- Gathering on the beach, the UFO was watched by a large number of people.
Correct: Gathering on the beach, a large number of people watch the UFO.
Correct: A large number of people gathered on the beach to watch the UFO.