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Is the following infinitive considered dangling modifier?

To get good results, the model needs to be tuned carefully.

I tend to think it is fine because the following seems to be right.

The model needs to be tuned carefully to get good results.

Anyway, I am a bit confused. Please let me know.

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"To get good results" may be a dangling modifier in this sentence. It depends whether it refers to the model, or something stated previously.

Dangling:

You can use this model in various experiments, but to get good results (from the experiments), the model should be tuned carefully.

Not Dangling:

This model can be applied to any number of experimental conditions, but to get good results (from the model) it must be tuned carefully.

Either way, this seems only marginally related to using the passive voice. The implied subject is "the person doing the tuning" (or just "you"), but that's not what "good results" refers to. The model isn't getting results from the researcher, after all.

The person setting up the experiment must tune the model carefully, to get good results (from the experiment/model).

Here's a better example:

To get a good night's sleep, your mattress should be selected to be firm but comfortable.

Here "to get a good night's sleep" is definitely a dangling modifier, as it's not the mattress that is getting the sleep, but rather the implied subject "you". The non-dangling version, in the active voice:

To get a good night's sleep, you should select your mattress to be firm but comfortable.

  • You are saying it is not a dangling modifier in the second sentence of your first example, aren't you? "This model can be applied to any number of experimental conditions, but to get good results (from the model) it must be tuned carefully." Yes, the implied subject is the researcher, and we are not getting results from the researcher. Is it a dangling modifier in this case, because mechanically, in this sentence the subject of the infinitive is supposed to be the model, although it is implied to be the researcheer. – Tom Bennett May 8 at 16:27
  • @TomBennett Well, the truth is doesn't matter if it's dangling or not. The only time anyone (other than a professional linguist) cares about such labels is on an English exam. Instead, we say the sentence is ambiguous or unclear. People write dangling modifiers all the time, but in most cases you can figure out what they mean from the surrounding context. If you can't, then it's just bad writing style. – Andrew May 8 at 19:21
  • Yes, this makes sense. I just want to know that you think your first example is clear. (It sounds clear to me.) – Tom Bennett May 9 at 2:29
  • @TomBennett It's fine, and would probably make perfect sense in context. – Andrew May 10 at 6:32
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As it stands, there is only one subject in the sentence - the model - so it reads like the model is doing the "getting" of results and doing the "tuning".

While the model may arguably "get" results in the sense that it produces them, I'm fairly sure that this inanimate thing has no motivation to obtain them - that would be the person seeking results from this model. To fix the dangling modifier you need to introduce a person as the subject.

One way you could write this would be:

To get good results, one must tune the model carefully.

This puts the pronoun "one" as the subject, as they are the person that gets the results and does the tuning of the model. To sound less formal you could use the pronoun "you", or identify someone specific such as "the operator".

  • I don't buy that first paragraph. To my ear, Our model gets results is just as natural as We get results [from our model]. And you don't even need to assume for us in the first case - in context, it could just as well be Our model gets results for anyone who uses it. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 8 at 14:55
  • It sounds natural but the question is how to fix the dangling modifier, because as it stands the subject of the main clause - the model - is the "doer" in what follows as well. Even if you argue that the model does "get" the results, the model doesn't tune itself. The only way to fix it is to make the subject a person who will both tune the model and get the results. – Astralbee May 9 at 8:38

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