ACT English : Dangling Modifier Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Dangling Modifier Errors

With over 165 wins in 11 seasons, the coaching prowess of Mike Ditka made the Chicago Bears a perpetual threat in the NFL.

Possible Answers:

Mike Ditka made the Chicago Bears a perpetual threat in the NFL with his coaching prowess.

the NFL was perpetually threatened by Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka's prowess.

Mike Ditka's coaching prowess made the Chicago Bears a perpetual threat in the NFL.

the perpetual threat to the NFL from the Chicago Bears was coach Mike Ditka's prowess.

the prowess of coach Mike Ditka made the Chicago Bears a perpetual NFL threat.

Correct answer:

Mike Ditka made the Chicago Bears a perpetual threat in the NFL with his coaching prowess.

Explanation:

All other answers except the correct one use a misplaced modifier, making it sound like it was the prowess, the NFL, or the perpetual threat that has the over-165 win record. As that noun belongs to Mike Ditka, only the answer that has his name immediately after the comma is correct.

Example Question #2 : Dangling Modifier Errors

Weighing more than 15,000 tons each, workers used massive tunnel boring machines to dig the tunnel. Each one could cut through the earth at a rate of approximately 15 feet per hour. These machines also collected the spoil, or earth removed by the machines, and sent it out of the tunnel via a long conveyer belt. A concrete lining was also added to the tunnel to prevent it from collapsing. To ensure that the French and British teams would eventually meet in the middle, the tunnel boring machines were steered using lasers.

 

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the passage. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

Weighing more than 15,000 tons each, workers dug the tunnel using massive tunnel boring machines.

Weighing more than 15,000 tons each, massive tunnel boring machines were used to dig the tunnel.

NO CHANGE

More than 15,000 tons each, workers used massive tunnel boring machines to dig the tunnel.

Which weighed more than 15,000 tons each, workers dug the tunnel using massive tunnel boring machines.

Correct answer:

Weighing more than 15,000 tons each, massive tunnel boring machines were used to dig the tunnel.

Explanation:

This is an example of a misplaced modifier. When "workers" immediately follows the introductory clause "Weighing more than 15,000 tons each," the sentence actually implies that it is the workers rather than the machines that weigh 15,000 tons each. To prevent misplaced modifiers, keep the item being modified (in this case, the machines) as close to the modifier (in this case, "Weighing more than 15,000 tons each") as possible. In the correct choice, "massive tunnel boring machines" follows the introductory clause; thus, the modifier correctly modifies the machines rather than the workers.

Example Question #3 : Dangling Modifier Errors

My childhood was fairly idyllic. I grew up in southern suburbia, we could play outside nearly year round. We almost played outside every day. Our days were filled with bike rides, jumping on the trampoline, playing in the sprinklers, and also imagination games. Countless afternoons were spent in the side yard of our home, where our imaginations were the limit to our fun. One of our favorite games was “Lost Children.” Oddly enough, the parents in the game were always deceased or fighting in a foreign war. The source of this game likely stemmed from the books we read.

My mother’s old, rusty, orange wheelbarrow was perpetually propped up against the fence, to serve as the base for our makeshift range. The metal braces beneath the wheelbarrow bin provided the perfect resting place for a pair of burners, hastily sketched on a flat board. Old paint buckets became a sink and a stained picnic table was scrubbed to a relative state of cleanliness. Our visitors, who were often kings and queens, were served heaping helpings of mud and grass pie, possibly adorned with a side helping of flowers. Household chores were far more fun to do in our imaginary world, and we would eagerly sweep and dust our humble home. Even covered in leaves, we loved our outdoor kitchen.  

Other days, we would scamper around the neighborhood park, sometimes venturing into the woods to go exploring. One time we borrowed my little sister’s wagon and flew down the sides of the ditch. Although we had a grand time my mother was not pleased when she had to replace the broken axle. On adventurous days, we would pretend to be statues on the entrance sign to our neighborhood. But, the most perfect afternoons were spent biking up to the local corner store. With spending money burning a hole in our pockets, we would peruse the convenience store shelves, and after carefully picking our selections, we would pedal home. Our plastic shopping bags hung from the handlebars, rustling in the wind.

The bite of crisp fall evenings would barely phase our childlike fantasies. But, to our dismay, twilight would inevitably seep into our childhood world. Mother would call us in for dinner and a bath, if needed. Tired, beds were welcomed. I would often fall asleep to the gentle rhythm of my mother’s voice.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Tired, we welcomed our beds.

Tired beds were welcome.

Welcomed the beds were.

Correct answer:

Tired, we welcomed our beds.

Explanation:

"Tired, we welcomed our beds" is the best choice because it fixes the dangling modifier by adding a subject, “we”, for "tired" to describe.

Example Question #1 : Dangling Modifier Errors

When the patent on Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary invention, the telephone, expired in 1894 thousands of new firms entered the telecommunication industry. Among them were a collection of profitable companies that merged to form what would later become known as The Bell System. The Bell System had amassed such weight in the industry that in 1933, when Congress passed a law declaring phone service a public utility, the Bell System quickly transformed into a monopoly. Lawmakers enthusiastic supported a series of provisions intended to stimulate competition. Appointed as the nation’s sole provider of telecommunication services, widespread criticism about the Bell System began to surface

The Federal Communications Act has so far been highly effective and the industry has grown tremendously as a result. In fact, for the past three years, the profitability of the largest three telecommunication companies has been greater than the largest three automotive companies. The number of calls provided by the top three companies range from five billion to six billion per day. Today, virtually everyone has made a phone call over the course of their lives. Most people do not know, however, that payment for swaths of electromagnetic wavelengths have become commonplace.

One explanation for such high call volume and large profits is that calls are becoming much less expensive for companies to provide, regardless for many large fixed expenses such as communication towers, base stations, and paying for utility poles. Over the last century, telephones had become an important part of modern society. In fact, the cost of delivering one telephone call today is about a thousandth of the cost in the 1950s. The increasing affordability and abundance of phone calls mark the progress made since the time of Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell System.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

criticism, widespread in its nature, and about the Bell System, began to spread

the Bell System became the subject of widespread criticism

NO CHANGE

widespread criticism began to surface about the Bell System

Correct answer:

the Bell System became the subject of widespread criticism

Explanation:

If a modifier clause—such as "Appointed as the nation’s sole provider of telecommunication services"—begins a sentence, the modifier must apply to the element immediately after the modifier clause.

In this case, the element immediately after the modifier clause is "widespread criticism," so the sentence is incorrectly claiming that the widespread criticism is what was appointed as the nation's sole provider of telecommunication services. Based on context, we can see that the author wishes to express that The Bell System is what was appointed as the nation's sole provider of telecommunication services. Thus, the correct sentence must contain "The Bell System" as the first element after the modifier clause. The only answer choice that obeys this rule is "Appointed as the nation’s sole provider of telecommunication services, The Bell System became the subject of widespread criticism."

Example Question #5 : Dangling Modifier Errors

Alfred Tarski, born on January 14, 1901, became known during his lifetime as a brilliant mathematician and teacher. He is best known for proving several advanced geometric theorems. By the time Tarski moved to the United States, much of Europe has already fallen into the grips of World War II. Hundreds of mathematical problems were solved by Tarski.

Tarski enrolled in Warsaw University in 1920. Originally wishing to study biology, mathematics was the subject in which Tarski ultimately excelled. He graduated with honors, and began his career as a math teacher. A true mathematical virtuoso, Tarski was concerned with neither the application of his research nor publishing his findings.   

Discoveries made by Tarski influenced the work of one of the world’s greatest physicists, Albert Einstein. Einstein and Tarski had many similar interests in common. Unlike Albert Einstein, however, Tarski was especially fond for pure mathematics. Although Tarski and Einstein were contemporaries, Einstein was the most prolific writer of the two.

In 1929, Tarski married his co-worker, Maria Witkowska. An affinity for mathematics ran in the family. Tarski even admitted that his wife knew more about algebra, geometry and trigonometry than did he. Tarski's two children, Jan, and Ina, grew up to be prominent mathematicians themselves; however, neither Jan nor Ina have received a great deal of international attention.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

the subject in which Tarski ultimately excelled was mathematics

NO CHANGE

Tarski ultimately excelled in mathematics

mathematics is the field in which Tarski ended up focusing his attention

mathematics is what Tarski excelled in

Correct answer:

Tarski ultimately excelled in mathematics

Explanation:

The sentence begins with the modifier phrase "Originally wishing to study biology," which must modify the element immediately following it.

It would not make very much sense for mathematics to study biology, but that is the meaning of the original sentence. Since it was Tarski—not mathematics—who originally wished to study biology, we must put "Tarski" rather than "mathematics" immediately after the modifier phrase.

The correct way to express the sentence is therefore "Originally wishing to study biology, Tarski excelled in mathematics," so the correct answer is "Tarski excelled in mathematics."

Each of the other answer choices contains a misplaced modifier error.

Example Question #6 : Dangling Modifier Errors

As the class entered the museum, Ms. Johnson noticed that two of her students had fallen behind the group. After all of the tickets had been secured, she approached the two girls, saying: “what on Earth is causing you to go so slow?” The taller girl, whose name was Ashley, was the first to respond:

“Veronica and I were just discussing something very private. Nobody can hear what her and I are discussing.”

“Well, Ashley, I think that our tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, will be offended by your behavior. You and Veronica should find separate places in the group and you should pay attention to him and me.”

The two girls reluctantly joined the rest of the class. Ms. Johnson looked to see if another student was out of their place, but everything seemed to be in order. The tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, introduced himself to the class: 

“Hello everyone! My name is Dr. Mitchell. I’m so glad that you have all come to the Museum of Natural History today; I think you’ll really enjoy our exhibits, which have been curated with the utmost care. The museum has three distinct types of exhibitions. Permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, and space shows. The permanent exhibition and the space show is always available for viewing, but the temporary exhibition changes seasonally.“

Having finished his introduction, the permanent exhibition was the first thing that Dr. Mitchell showed to the class.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

Having finished introducing the permanent exhibition Dr. Mitchell showed the permanent exhibition to the class first.

NO CHANGE

Having finished his introduction, the permanent exhibition was the first thing showed to the class.

Having finished his introduction, Dr. Mitchell first showed the class the permanent exhibition.

Correct answer:

Having finished his introduction, Dr. Mitchell first showed the class the permanent exhibition.

Explanation:

This modifier, "having finished his introduction," is misplaced in the original text. The modifier describes Dr. Mitchell, not the exhibition, so it is Dr. Mitchell who should appear directly after the modifier. This is why the correct answer reads, "Having finished his introduction, Dr. Mitchell . . ." If we do not place the subject of the modifier directly after it, we have created a misplaced modifier (such as in the original text).

Example Question #2 : Dangling Modifier Errors

The bayou was quiet, except for the sounds of insects, water and the occasional alligator. Jim was cleaning his blade, which he had recently used to dispatch one of the undead. His partner Bill and him had come out to the bayou for their nightly patrol and they had found a nest of the undead by an old abandoned dock.

"Hey, Bill!," he shouted gleefully, mindless of whether the noise would attract more undead. "Where'd you go, man?"

A noise to his left had startled him. He turned quick and saw the man who had been closest to him than a brother for the past six months walking slowly toward him.

"Whew," he said: "there you are." He went back to cleaning his blade. "I thought one of those things had got 'cha."

Standing in the dark, the light of the moon did not reach his partners face. The sudden silence caused Jim to look up again. "What's the matter with you, Bill?"

It was only when the thing that was once Bill stepped into the light and Jim saw the fresh bite on it's newly dead face that he realized what the matter was.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

The light of the moon standing in the dark

Since his partner was standing in the dark, the light of the moon

While standing in the dark, the light of the moon

Correct answer:

Since his partner was standing in the dark, the light of the moon

Explanation:

As written, the sentence makes it sound as if "the light of the moon" is "standing in the dark," but it's actually Bill, so the sentence must be rewritten to clarify this.

Example Question #8 : Dangling Modifier Errors

Jeremy had no luck convincing the members of the orchestral committee about his suggestions. He pleaded, cajoled, was begging, and even threatened the committee at various times, but yet despite being the conductor, he couldnt get them to agree to his requests. Despite many attempts, the committee would not listen to him. In the end, he decided to go through with the Christmas concert despite him not having his favorite composer on the program. Afterward, one of his friends, whom was in the audience, came up and asked him why was there no Handel on the program? "I did try" Jeremy replied "but the committee were unanimously against me. I nearly begged them all day to put one piece on the program. But try as I might I could not get a Handel on it."

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

he wouldn't listen to the committee

the committee wouldn't listen to him

he could not get the committee to listen

Correct answer:

he could not get the committee to listen

Explanation:

To avoid a dangling modifier, the phrase "he could not get the committee to listen" is the only choice that works here.

Example Question #9 : Correcting Dangling Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Coming back to the farm, the gruesome scene was seen by everyone in the car.

Possible Answers:

the gruesome scene saw by everyone in the car.

the gruesome scene being seen by everyone in the car.

everyone in the car saw the gruesome scene.

the gruesome scene was seen by everyone in the car.

the gruesome scene was seen by everyone at the car.

Correct answer:

everyone in the car saw the gruesome scene.

Explanation:

The sentence is written with a dangling modifier, which makes the sentence read as though the "gruesome scene" was what was "coming back to the farm." The sentence needs to be restructured to clarify this problem. The only answer choice that does this is "everyone in the car saw the gruesome scene."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Dangling Modifier Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Waiting for the crucial trial to begin, the anxiety Neil felt was almost overwhelming.

Possible Answers:

the anxiety Neil felt was almost overwhelming.

the anxiety almost overwhelmed Neil.

Neil felt almost overwhelmed with anxiety.

Neil's anxiety felt almost overwhelming.

the anxiety being felt by Neil was almost overwhelming.

Correct answer:

Neil felt almost overwhelmed with anxiety.

Explanation:

When a sentence begins with a dangling participle or descriptive phrase, the person or thing described in that phrase (in this case, "Neil") must immediately follow it. Only one answer choice does this correctly. The answer choice that begins "Neil's anxiety" may appear to do so, but it does not, because the possessive "Neil's" is no longer the subject, but is describing the anxiety.

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