1

I am studying English, and I came across this example.

In theory, international civil servants at the United Nations are prohibited from continuing to draw salaries from their own governments; in practice, however, some governments merely substitute living allowances for the paychecks of their employees, having been assigned to the United Nations.

This sentence does not convey the intended meaning since the modifier "having been..." modifies the subject of the second clause (i.e. "some governments" ).
Is it right to say that if I have a comma + an -ing modifier, such modifier modifies the entire setting clause?
A possible way to fix the sentence to match the intended meaning is this:

In theory, international civil servants at the United Nations are prohibited from continuing to draw salaries from their own governments; in practice, however, some governments merely substitute living allowances for the paychecks of their employees who have been assigned to the United Nations.

Now my other question is: what is the meaning conveyed if I leave out the comma?
Does "having been.." modifies "employees"? i.e. could I fix the sentence just by leaving out the comma between employees and having been?
Is it tre in general that if I don't have a comma then an -ing modifier modifies the preceding noun?

2
  • Had you considered that the "having" clause may not be modifying "governmemts" ? – BillJ Feb 22 at 13:34
  • Employees, not governments, are assigned to the UN. – BillJ Feb 22 at 13:42
2

I agree, it is badly written sentence. On analysis, "having been" can only refer to the subject (the governments) and not the employees.

some governments merely substitute living allowances for the paychecks of their employees, having been assigned to the United Nations.

A comparable example would be:

David washed his dog, having got muddy on their walk together.

This suggests that David got muddy, not his dog. In fact, it could have been written as:

David, having got muddy on their walk, washed his dog.

Fixing it in a way similar to how you altered your example, it should read:

David washed his dog as it got muddy on their walk together.


Removing the comma is not an alternative solution as the sentence would not be grammatically correct.

You could use "having been" by re-writing the sentence to make the employees the subject, for example:

some government employees, having been assigned to the United Nations, receive living allowances as a substitute for paychecks.

1
  • What about this example though? Unable to build nests or care for their young, female cowbirds use the nests of other birds to lay up to 40 eggs a year, including those of warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes. well this sentence is also awkward in that does not convey the intended meaning; i.e. including touches eggs a year thus it modifies it. My question is: Is that a particular case? I am getting a bit confused as I thought we agreed on -ing modifier to modify the subject; thanks in advance. – Speripro Feb 23 at 6:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.