As far as I know those two examples below considered wrong because of dangling participles.

1- For the interview, William borrowed Grandpa's old suit, draped neatly on a hanger.

2- Do you know my brother Ben, living in Hong Kong.

To make them correct, I should rewrite them as:

1'- For the interview, William borrowed Grandpa's old suit, which was draped neatly on a hanger.

2'- Do you know my brother Ben, who lives in Hong Kong.

My question is that why those sentences below aren't considered wrong?

3- Did you read Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare? (which was written)

4- The critic used "spins out", meaning to lengthen, adjacent to the resulting length, thus emphasizing the number of pages. (which means)

  • 1) and 2) are not incorrect.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


I'm afraid your prior assumption is incorrect. These are not "dangling participles". These are just ordinary participles.

Many participles, like those in (1-4), are formed from reducing relative clauses, like those in (1'-2'). They are not ungrammatical, and the participles in (1-2) are not "dangling". (3-4) are similar in structure, and there's nothing grammatically wrong with them, either; nor do they "dangle".

The construction that's condemned as a "dangling participle" has to be a participle that lacks a subject. Most participles do, but it's easy to see what the subjects would be in (1-4), because the participles come right after them. That's not "dangling" -- that's being properly placed.

Besides being subjectless, a "dangling participle" has to be placed in the sentence in a way that points to an incorrect subject. Since subjectless participle phrases often are adverbial in meaning, they can be moved around, by various rules, viz:

  • Three cats were sitting on a fence.
  • Sitting on a fence were three cats.
  • There were three cats sitting on a fence.
  • Sitting on a fence there were three cats.

But this can isolate a participle from its subject, especially if the sentence is complex:

  • My grandmother saw three cats sitting on a fence.
  • [Sitting on a fence] my grandmother saw three cats.

These last two sentences don't mean the same thing, and the bracketed part is an example of a real "dangling participle". The "dangle" part of the metaphor refers to the unfilled subject slot of the participle, which gets attached to the wrong noun, like a dangling chain caught on an obstruction.

As one can see from the example, dangling participles are the basis of many jokes.

  • Thanks, the reason why I was wrong in classifying the first two participle as dangling participle is that I asked those sentences to another native speakers and they said: In number 1, I think you need "which was" to be inserted before "draped," because the sentence seems unclear as to what "draped" modifies. In number 2, who’s living in Hong Kong – “you” or Ben? Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 2:24
  • 1
    Native speakers' intuitions about grammaticality are likely to be confused with meaning oddities because Anglophone schools don't teach real English grammar and therefore people get very odd ideas about what's grammatical. There are two ways to pronounce (2); in one of them, living in Hong Kong means "while you are/were living in Hong Kong"; the other way it means Ben lives/d there. Written sentences are always ambiguous, depending on pronunciation. In (1), the which was is deletable by Whiz-Deletion. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 13:20
  • Hi, I would like to ask one more question if possible, "Essos is an immense landmass located to the east of Westeros, extending into the far east of the known world." (Here, "extending" describes the Essos not Westeros, but it is used right after Westeros. Is it considered as misplaced participle or just bad writing?) Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:02
  • 1
    Neither. A landmass is just a predicate noun phrase with two participial modifiers -- located ... Westeros, and entending ... world. They have to appear in some order, after all; they can't be simultaneous. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:43
  • Hi again me. If possible, I would like to ask something. Can I use participles to modify the subject of the main clause when there is no connection between main clause and participle clause. For example: "He is a bookworm, living in Canada. (He is a bookworm + He lives in Canada, there is no connection between being bookworm and living in Canada) Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 12:14

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