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While chatting, my phone rang suddenly.

In the sentence, the subject of the participle clause is different from that of the main clause. I'd like to know whether it is grammatical.

  • 2
    No, it's not right. The understood subject of the participial clause should be the same as the subject of the main clause. – CowperKettle Dec 25 '15 at 8:46
  • The subject in the main clause must not be incapable of the action expressed in the participle clause. Trying to stifle a sneeze, my phone rang. A looser formulation: the subject in the main clause must not be uninvolved in the action expressed in the participle clause. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 25 '15 at 13:25
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Typically, the subject should be the same in both the main and participle phrase (clause), otherwise your sentence might suggest that your phone was chatting.

However, considering that the phones don't chat the sentence is pretty fine, even if it doesn't follow strict grammar rules.

Good read here:

| improve this answer | |
  • I would agree with you if the sentence read, "While on the chair, my phone rang suddenly." (That would be ambiguous: Was I on the chair? Or was my phone on the chair?) However, phones don't chat but people do, so I think the meaning in this case is quite clear, and the original sentence sounds fine – even if it doesn't follow strict grammar rules. – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 9:35
  • Yes, indeed, @J.R., grammar is flexible though. – Lucian Sava Dec 25 '15 at 9:43
  • @Lucian-Thank goodness it is! Otherwise, most of our questions would go away :^) – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 9:51
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    Yes, you can get away with dangling participles: eventually you will be understood correctly. But the writer's job is to avoid confusing the reader even momentarily. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 25 '15 at 14:33

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