You can either think about this way:

Someone was hiding in a wardrobe and you found them. Here "hinding in a wardrobe" is used to emphasize our disbelief that this particular person was hiding in such obvious place and it took us so long (or so little) to find them.


You are hiding in a wardrobe and have found them. Here "hiding in a wardrobe" is used to define what you were doing when suddenly you found that person. For example, you play hide&seek, your friend hasn't gone out of their spot since a while. You jump in your wardrobe, then you realize you're not alone and you say "Hiding in a wardrobe, I have finally found!" (cause you hid in a wardrobe and found them by accident)

These are two different meanings and I wonder... Are both of them correct and this sentence can be interpreted both ways?

  • 1
    The syntactically non-standard (and pragmatically illogical) interpretation that I was hiding in the wardrobe would only occur in "Yoda-speak". By default, such adjectival participle phrases apply to the nearest candidate noun (in this case, following, but usually preceding, as in I finally found you hiding in a wardrobe). Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:39
  • @FumbleFingers Your modifiers are dangling.
    – Kreiri
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:42
  • @Kreiri: But if I was Yoda, at least I could be hiding in a wardrobe to cover my modesty! Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:44

1 Answer 1


While vague in specifying who is "hiding in a wardrobe", usually context or even word order will make it apparent. If lacking a clear perspective, the meaning will be dependent on the listener's understanding, not necessarily what the speaker meant. Unless vagueness is a specific intention (as part of a humorous story, perhaps), poor communication is the result.

perspective 1: Hiding in her wardrobe, he spied on his sister.
perspective 2: Susan caught her little brother hiding in her wardrobe.
perspective 3: Susan, hiding in her wardrobe, caught her little brother.

In #1, both the leading position of the hiding clause and the words spied on are both indicative of the brother being the one in the closet. The clarity of #2 might be slightly less, but with the words "brother hiding" being adjacent, the natural interpretation is again the the brother is in the closet. #3 uses the position of its inserted phrase to clearly indicate that Susan is in the closet.

We heard Tom crying while hiding in a wardrobe.

Is Tom in the wardrobe, or is it us?

  • There's vague, and then there's "approaching the station and admiring the scenery, my hat blew off".
    – Kreiri
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 16:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .