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  1. Lenka's Avatar

    • Join Date: May 2004
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    #1

    Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    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.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    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.
    This is what is called a dangling participle or a misplaced modifier.

    As the sentence is written, his foot is carrying the books. This can be easily repaired:

    While he was carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #3

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    DANGLING MODIFIERS. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993



    DANGLING MODIFIERS

    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.



    +++++++++++++++

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    #4

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    I like the phrase 'at the lower levels of speech'.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    This is what is called a dangling participle or a misplaced modifier...
    I've met the term 'mis-related clause'. Anyway, it's the same thing . Pay particular attention to the second of riverkid's quoted paragraphs; in informal contexts (and increasingly in informal ones, I'm afraid) this sort of mistake is very common. A lot of people aren't aware of it at all, and some don't care as long as there's no functional ambiguity: in "Walking across the playground, he saw his friend waving from the classroom on the second floor" there's little risk that anyone will really understand the first clause as referring to the friend, even though that's what the grammar implies.

    b


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #6

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    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.

  4. Lenka's Avatar

    • Join Date: May 2004
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    #7

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    Does it mean that I shall rather not use such sentences?

  5. BobK's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    Yes, just don't lose any sleep over it! (And I've just noticed my example was wrong [that is, right]).

    b


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #9

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    Does it mean that I shall rather not use such sentences?
    It means, Lenka, that we always take greater care when we write and you should too. The point of language is communication and in writing we strive to make it as easy as possible on the reader.

    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 ...?

  6. Lenka's Avatar

    • Join Date: May 2004
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    #10

    Re: Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a step.

    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.

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