Student or Learner
Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.
I read this sentence on the internet (on a website dealing with verbals :)) and just this sentence was marked with an asterisk.
(There was an axplanation, that sentences marked with asterisk are either ambiguous or peculiar.)
I just wonder whether this senetence (it sounds quite weird to me, but I am not a native speaker...) is ambiguous (has to meanings) or is considered peculiar, nonstandard.
Pope of the Dictionary.com Forum
DANGLING MODIFIERS. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993
which include dangling phrases of various kindsódangling gerunds, dangling infinitives, dangling participles, and just plain danglersóas well as misplaced or misrelated modifiers, are much criticized but much used and frequently unnoticed too.
This sort of usage gaffe is most likely to be noticed in Formal writing, less so in speech, and particularly less so at the lower levels of speech. Dangling modifiers of all sorts have long managed to get by in the best English and American literary company without being noticed.
I like the phrase 'at the lower levels of speech'.
The point is that these dangling modifiers are not the big deal that they are made out to be. The ludicrous suggestions that some make about possible meanings defy reality. ENLs are not nearly that gullible.
Does it mean that I shall rather not use such sentences?
Yes, just don't lose any sleep over it! (And I've just noticed my example was wrong [that is, right]).
In speech, things are not nearly as critical. Writing and speech do not follow the same language guidelines.
In speech, the background context is rich enough that there is almost never any confusion with danglers. That isn't to say confusion is impossible, but English, like all languages, has collocations specifically to help us when there is confusion;
What do you mean by ...? // Did you mean to say ...?
OK, thank you!
To tell the truth, I believe I won't have any problems not to use such confucing sentences... I wouldn't say it... Maybe the reason is that I am not a native speaker.