A dangling participle is a participle that is said to dangle when there is no word in the sentence that the participle can modify, or when the participle is placed in a sentence in such a way that it unintentionally modifies another noun instead of the right word, usually the subject of the sentence that is meant to be modified. A dangling participle can be a single participle or a participle/participial phrase.
The participle is usually positioned at the beginning of the sentence to modify the noun or pronoun immediately next to it. This noun or pronoun is the subject of the sentence.
Incorrect: Strolling along the beach, raindrops fell on my skin.
- Correct: Strolling along the beach, I could feel raindrops falling on my skin.
(In the first sentence, the participial phrase strolling along the beach is meant to modify the subject of the sentence, but there is no correct subject in the sentence that it can modify. What we have here is the participial phrase modifying the wrong subject raindrops in the clause raindrops fell on my skin, giving the wrong meaning that the raindrops were strolling along the beach. In the second sentence, the correct subject is introduced into the sentence for the participial phrase to modify. The correct subject can only be the subjective personal pronoun I because of the possessive pronoun my used near the end of the sentence.)
The following three sentences are correct ones that are free of dangling participles.
- Standing trial for the murder of a judge, the accused told the judge (not the murdered judge, of course) that he acted in self-defence/self-defense.
- Lying about two miles outside the town, my uncle’s dairy farm produces speciality/specialty cheeses.
- Having checked into the hotel, the whole family went for a walk along the beachfront.
He chased the monkey with his hat.
(He chased the monkey wearing his hat or the monkey had his hat?)
Correct: Wearing his hat, he chased the monkey.
(The participle has to be next to the noun that it modifies. The participle phrase wearing his hat modifies he.)
Doctor Dolt was chased by a big black bull cycling across the field.
(This sentence says the big black bull was cycling across the field, not Doctor Dolt. The present participle phrase cycling across the field is seen here wrongly modifying bull.)
The sentence can be corrected by rewriting it as follow:
Cycling across the field, Doctor Dolt was chased by a big black bull.
Doctor Dolt cycling across the field was chased by a big black bull..