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Having studied for the test well, his mark was good.

The sentence above makes sense to me. but Korean think this is not grammatically correct. and they say 'Having studied' should be the activity of 'his mark'. so it should be something like "Having studied for the test well, he did well on the test."

I don't think native people think the same way as koreans do.

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Technically it's incorrect. It's a dangling participle, sometimes known as a hanging participle or hanging modifier.

The subject of the main clause and the subject of the participle are not the same. Otherwise you would be able to write: His mark, having studied hard for the test, was good. But his mark didn't study. He did!

There's a slightly humourous article in the Guardian on the matter, which might reassure you that native speakers often incorrectly use these dangling participles. And to be honest, it took me a second look to realise that something was not quite perfect.

Further googling shows that danglers are not alone:

Dangling in exalted company…

It was of some comfort to learn that even literary greats have been known to fall prey to this error, including Jane Austen, Alexander Pope, Arthur Miller, and even the Bard of Avon himself:

Sleeping in mine orchard, a serpent stung me. (Hamlet)

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  • It would greatly help your answer if you could suggest a rephrasing of the sentence that corrects the issue. :) – Jason Bassford Jul 29 '18 at 18:47
  • Perhaps: Since he'd studied so hard for the test, his mark was good. But to be honest, I probably wouldn't have stumbled over this particular sentence, if I'd read it in an article. I might notice something like 'looking out the window, the mountains were magnificent, but in the above post with the 'his' in the subject I'd probably subconsciously assume that there's a 'he' nearby and not give it a second thought. – S Conroy Jul 29 '18 at 21:00
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Having studied for the test well, his mark was good.

This is just an "inversion" from

His mark was good, having studied for the test well.

So, this phrase is mildly acceptable, for oral speech per example.

But, more formally, someone might infer that His mark was studying for the test. By making the subject clearer we can avoid this ambiguity.

He having studied for the test well, his mark was good.

Furthermore:

I don't think native speakers think the same way as Koreans do.

This is obviously true, a Second-language learner will never quite get the gist of a language as a Native gets it. This comes from our acquisition of language.


As a little footnote, I'd like to warn you that your question has a few errors. We Korean and but Korean think [..] don't make sense in English.

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  • I find your solution, He having studied, to be more awkward-sounding than the sample sentence. If I were to recast the original sentence ever so slightly I would write: “Having studied well for the test, his mark was good. – Mari-Lou A Jun 29 '18 at 8:05
  • @Mari-LouA I didn't mean it to not be awkward, I was explaining the ambiguity and why someone would say that is wrong – Deltab Jun 29 '18 at 17:10
  • I understood the explanation but I'm not entirely comfortable with your proposed solution to avoid the ambiguity (By making the subject clearer we can avoid this ambiguity.) – Mari-Lou A Jun 29 '18 at 19:17
  • @Mari-LouA Unfortunately, saying having studied well for the test, his mark was good does not remove the ambiguity—if you want to read it as such. To make it clear, it needs to be because he studied [well] for the test [well], his mark was good. – Jason Bassford Jul 29 '18 at 18:45
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This is called the ablative absolute construction, and English borrowed it from Latin. It's grammatical, but used mostly in literary registers, so you will rarely hear it in speech.

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  • Can you explain what the ablative absolute construction is in English and how it shows in the given sentence? – Mitch Jul 29 '18 at 12:55
  • @JamesRandom precisely speaking, yes, but your exception is really only raised when trying to teach someone Latin. If the OP is familiar with latin, it's very useful to point out that you get sentences like this in English, which are originally a calque of the latin ablative absolute. – user79784 Jul 29 '18 at 20:15
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The biggest problem for me is the placement of the the adverb (I would prefer "studied well").

Second, the choice of adverb (I would prefer "hard").

Third, although grammatical analysis shows that the subjects of the two clauses are inconsistent, this seems to be a case where human understanding trumps the application of rules. This is because the formal analysis leads to the nonsensical conclusion that "*his mark studied"; this is therefore rejected in favour of the common sense meaning of the sentence.

So, I would say that in speech or informal writing, the second clause is perfectly OK. The meaning is absolutely clear. In formal, edited writing, one might expect to see something like, "Having studied hard for the test, he achieved a good mark."

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