While nestled inside that divine sanctuary, words were my window to the world outside my perch in Columbus, Ohio. (Benita Porter, The Power of Words)

It seems like while-clause is a participial clause (a dangling participial one). Is it? If so, is the subject ‘I’?

  • 2
    As the son of an English professor I am very happy to see this question! Yes, that is a classic dangling participle (whether it's a clause depends on your theology); it could go in a textbook as a warning to writers. And 'I' should govern nestled, but, alas, doesn't, because it got left out. Sep 1, 2013 at 0:05
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    Technically speaking, words is the subject. But it's a badly-formed sentence, so if you try to parse it you end up with gibberish. Sep 1, 2013 at 1:15
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    I think 'words' is a subject for 'words were my window.' But in the subordinate clause 'while (I was) nestled inside that divine sanctuary,' subject is 'I.'
    – aarbee
    Sep 1, 2013 at 9:27
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    It's prescriptively incorrect, but see CGEL pages 610-611 for a descriptive account of when a "dangling participle" is acceptable or not. For example, the subject of said in "Having said that, it must be admitted that the new plan also has advantages" is unstated but can be understood from context, so it's generally considered acceptable. I think you could say the same about your example, but clearly opinions differ.
    – user230
    Sep 1, 2013 at 19:07
  • @StoneyB: Can you write that as an answer to this question?
    – Matt
    Sep 1, 2013 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


Yep. This is a classic dangling participle (past participle in this case). The subject is "words" but the participle isn't meant to modify "words" (at least, I don't think the words were nestled anywhere). The clause is meant to modify "I" but the author never put "I" into the sentence at all.

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