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 #2251 : Act English

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

Celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship, man commonly refers to dogs as "man's best friend".

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship, men is commonly referred to as "dog's best friend".

Dog's, celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship, are commonly referred to as "mans best friend".

Celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship, a dog is commonly referred to as "mans best friend".

Celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship, dogs are commonly referred to as "man's best friend".

Correct answer:

Celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship, dogs are commonly referred to as "man's best friend".

Explanation:

The dangling modifier "Celebrated for their loyalty and unwavering companionship" refers to "dogs," the  noun being described, but the subject of the main clause here is "man." Anytime you have an introductory clause that modifies a later noun, you should be careful to double-check that the modifier describes the grammatical subject of the main clause.

Example Question #97 : Modifier Placement Errors

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

With over 200 published short stories in two years, the prolific writing of James Martin is unparalleled.

Possible Answers:

James Martin's prolific writing is unparalleled.

James Martin is unparalleled in his prolific writing.

NO CHANGE

the prolific writing of James Martin will be unparalleled.

James Martin's writing is prolific an unparalleled.

Correct answer:

James Martin is unparalleled in his prolific writing.

Explanation:

It is not the writing of James Martin that has published over 200 stories, it is James Martin himself, so the correct answer assigns the modifier to the correct subject.

Example Question #98 : Modifier Placement Errors

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

To prepare for the party, Casey's decorations were all hung up early that morning.

Possible Answers:

Casey's decorations were to be hung up early that morning.

all of the decorations were hung up by Casey early that morning.

Casey hung up all of her decorations early that morning.

all of the decorations was hung up by Casey early that morning.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Casey hung up all of her decorations early that morning.

Explanation:

Casey is the person who is preparing for the party, not her decorations. As it stands, the modifying phrase is misplaced so that the sentence is confusing and implies that Casey's decorations are doing the party preparations. The correct answer is the only one that correctly refers to Casey instead of her decorations as the person or thing performing the action in the sentence.

Example Question #99 : Modifier Placement Errors

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

Having drunk all the water, the empty bottle was on the table next to Bill.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Bill's empty bottle was on the table next to him, having drunk all the water. 

Having drunk all the water, on the table next to Bill was the empty bottle.

Having drunk all the water, the empty bottle was placed on the table next to him by Bill.

Having drunk all the water, Bill put the empty bottle on the table next to him. 

Correct answer:

Having drunk all the water, Bill put the empty bottle on the table next to him. 

Explanation:

This question asks you to correct a dangling modifier, which occurs when it is unclear what phrase is being modified. In this sentence, the structure incorrectly suggests that the bottle itself drank the water. A modifying phrase should be placed as close as possible to the phrase it modifies, so the phrase "Having drunk all the water" should be placed next to the description of who drank it, "Bill."

Example Question #100 : Modifier Placement Errors

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

Looking up at the top of the stairwell, Jerry's date took careful steps as he watched her descend.

Possible Answers:

As she looked up at the top of the stairwell,

The stairwell being where she looked up,

Having looked up at the top of the stairwell,

NO CHANGE

Beginning at the top of the stairwell,

Correct answer:

Beginning at the top of the stairwell,

Explanation:

Since Jerry's date "descended" the stairwell, it is obvious that she was not "looking up" Thus, "beginning" her descent as Jerry looked up at her is the correct modifying phrase for the anchor, "Jerry's date."

Example Question #1911 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Josh suffered from a fear of dogs ever since he is a little boy. He would shiver in his boots thinking of a dog barking at him, biting him, or that could chase him. He had never met a single dog he liked. The scarier dog he had ever seen was Mr. Green’s dog, whom he had to pass every day. On his way to school. This dog barked so loudly it made Josh’s hairs stand on end.

She said that there was no need to be afraid. Josh’s mom told him that dogs only barked because they were excited to see him. She told him that he just needed to be confident and not act afraid of this dogs’ barking, and speak in a reassuring tone. Then the dog would quiet down and act more friendly.

Josh felt that neither confidence or a reassuring tone would make any difference. He didn’t think he would ever get over his fear. However, one day he had enough. Barking for hours, he realized the dog was bored and just needed a friend. He wasn’t sure if his mother’s advice would prove true? Hiding his fear, he approached the dog and spoke to it in a reassuring tone. To his surprise, the dog wagged it’s tail and quieted down right away. 

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

Possible Answers:

The dog, he realized, barking for hours, was bored and just needed a friend.

He realized the dog, barking for hours, was bored and just needed a friend.

He realized the dog was just bored and needed a friend, barking for hours.

NO CHANGE

He realized, barking for hours, the dog was bored and just needed a friend.

Correct answer:

He realized the dog, barking for hours, was bored and just needed a friend.

Explanation:

This question asks you to correct a misplaced modifier. A modifier should be placed as close as possible to the phrase it modifies to avoid confusing the reader. In this case, the original structure, "Barking for hours, he realized the dog was bored and just needed a friend," incorrectly suggests that Josh was the one who was barking for hours. The correct structure places the modifying phrase, "barking for hours," next to the noun it modifies, "dog," correctly suggesting that the dog was the one who was barking. 

Example Question #1912 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

“On the Nature of Belief”

Belief and faith often are critiqued in a scientific culture. It can seem that mere belief is a replacement for science made available to soothe the ignorant masses. There is some truth to such accusations, and many people do use belief as a screen to cover their own ignorance about the truths of reality.  Everyone should be aware, however, that almost every single human being have these kinds of “blind spots.” We all live with many things that we merely believe, all of which are so central to ones world view.

Even if we set aside all such types of beliefs, there still remains a broad terrain of human life in which faith and belief remain—even if we ignore all religious matters whatsoever. Imagine the scientist who’s work on brain neurons depends upon many discoveries made by many other people.  Yes, if it were possible, it would be better for such a person to know all of the details that they accept merely at the word of other scientists.  In all cases, seeing directly is more fulfilling than merely hearing about something.

However, is the scientist better off when he or she knows only what they have experienced directly.  Although it is preferable that he or she knows such facts. However, it is impossible to investigate everything.  Sometimes, one must extend one’s own vision with the vision of someone else.  In a way, the person who thus “takes it on faith” gains a further vision.

Such faith always relies upon the credibility of the person who shares the experience, of course.  For one person to believe on faith what another person says, it is presupposed that the other person is not a liar and actually could have experienced the matter in question.  This means that even the “scientific believer” must take the risk of placing credibility in someone who has witnessed things that he or she has not seen.  While this does not vindicate every kind of faith that people have had, it does provide a telling sign that faith, as such, is not always the refuge of the ignorant.  Indeed, it is an important part of all of our lives, even the lives of scientists, who’s daring and investigative work is rarely criticized as being a refuge for ignorance!

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

It can seem that mere belief is a replacement for science, made available to soothe the ignorant masses.

It can seem that mere belief is a replacement, for science made available to soothe the ignorant masses.

It can seem that mere belief, made available to soothe the ignorant masses, is a replacement for science.

It can seem that mere belief is a replacement, for science, made available to soothe the ignorant masses.

Correct answer:

It can seem that mere belief, made available to soothe the ignorant masses, is a replacement for science.

Explanation:

The whole issue with this sentence is the fact that "belief" is the antecedent for the phrase "made available to soothe the ignorant masses." Although you could put a comma directly after "science" to make this a clearer sentence, this is still not the best option. It is always best to move phrases closer to their antecedents. Hence, the option that moves the phrase in this way is the best option.

Example Question #81 : Dangling Modifier Errors

“John Adams—A Forgotten American Founder”

Sadly, the great exploits of important [46] men and women is often forgotten in the mists of history. The myths and historical tales of a nation can lead the people to forget [47] some of their most important founders and national heroes. In the United States of America, this kind of forgetfulness has occurred in the case of the Founding Father, John Adams. For a number of reasons, President Adams [48] had been forgotten. Recounting the [49] tales of the nations’ founding, many remember figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. [50] However, during those early years of the republic, Adams was a pivotal figure in assuring independence to the burgeoning nation.

[51] During the debates concerning the Declaration of Independence, Adams was something of a “chief orator,” tirelessly attempting to convince the gathered parties of the importance of declaring independence from England. [52] Adams a temperamental and passionate man, was the perfect person to fill such a role. In contrast to the judicious Franklin and the controlled and quiet Jefferson, he was fit for performing such oratorical shows and bombasts. [53] Although he joined Jefferson and Franklin on the drafting committee for the declaration, his most important work during this time was arguably this long project of oratory.

[54] In addition, many forget the lonely years Adams spent as a minister to France and as the first minister to England. What a difficult affair such posts would have been at the time. [55] As the minister to France, what weight could he have had with the court of such an old European nation? Furthermore, Adams [56] was not temperamentally [57] suited for French courtly customs being a stern and somewhat moralistic man. [58] Then, to be sent to England—how difficult that must have been. As the minister on behalf of a once-rebel nation, how could he stand before the Court of King James? Nevertheless, Adams served his [59] post nobly and deserves great recognition for this devoted service to his young nation.

Choose the answer that best corrects section [57].

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

suited, for French courtly customs, being a stern, and somewhat moralistic man

suited, for French courtly customs, being a stern and somewhat moralistic man

suited for French courtly customs, being a stern and somewhat moralistic man

Correct answer:

suited for French courtly customs, being a stern and somewhat moralistic man

Explanation:

The word "for" is really part of the verb expression "suited for." (It is a detached prefix preposition, sometimes seen in languages of Germanic descent, as is English.) It is not a conjunction. Hence, it does not make sense to place a comma before it for any reason. The expression "being a stern and somewhat moralistic man" is a description of Adams. It begins with the participle "being." This might read better were it placed closer to the noun it modifies (i.e. Adams). As this question stands, it is at least necessary to place a comma after it to show that it is a subordinate clause.

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