SAT Writing : Identifying Dangling Modifier Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #11 : Identifying Modifier Placement 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Rustling in the summer breeze, Sam was impressed by the oak trees on his walk.

Possible Answers:

Rustling in the summer breeze, Sam is admiring the oak trees on his walk.

Rustling in the summer breeze, the oak trees impressed Sam on his walk.

As they rustled in the summer breeze, Sam was impressed by the oak trees on his walk.

Rustling in the summer breeze, Sam admires the oak trees on his walk.

Rustles in the summer breeze, Sam admires the oak trees on his walk.

Correct answer:

Rustling in the summer breeze, the oak trees impressed Sam on his walk.

Explanation:

Since "rustling in the summer breeze" refers to the oak trees rather than Sam (since trees, not people, can rustle), "the oak trees" has to go directly after that modifying phrase. This construction only occurs in the answer choice of "Rustling in the summer breeze, the oak trees impressed Sam on his walk." 

Example Question #12 : Identifying Dangling Modifier Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Running late to class, Tom's backpack fell off as he sprinted down the hall. No error

Possible Answers:

down the hall

fell off

he sprinted

Tom's backpack

No error

Correct answer:

Tom's backpack

Explanation:

The dangling modifier "Running late to class" must be immediately followed by the subject Tom. In the question, the modifier is followed by Tom's backpack, which incorrectly suggests that the backpack is running late to class.

Example Question #13 : Identifying Dangling Modifier Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Staring out the window, the lengthy car ride to Nebraska seemed to take forever. No error

Possible Answers:

lengthy

No error

Staring out the window

to

take forever

Correct answer:

Staring out the window

Explanation:

The error in this sentence is the dangling modifier: "Staring out the window." A dangling modifier is one that is left without a noun to modify (or without one that it would make sense to modify). Since a car ride can't stare out a window, "staring out the window" does not have a logical noun to modify and is therefore a dangling modifier. A corrected sentence might look like this: "As Mia stared out the window, the lengthy car ride to Nebraska seemed to last forever" or "Staring out the window, Mia lamented that the lengthy car ride to Nebraska seemed to take forever."

Example Question #11 : Identifying Dangling Modifier Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Looking at it from above, the city seemed much smaller than George would have thought. No error

Possible Answers:

the city

above

than

would

No error

Correct answer:

the city

Explanation:

The sentence above contains a dangling modifier. Since it is George who is "looking at it from above" in the first clause, George must be the subject of the second clause, not "the city."

Example Question #11 : Identifying Dangling Modifier Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Taking deep breaths, enough composure was regained by the pianist to finish the concert. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

the concert.

to finish

enough composure was regained

the pianist

Correct answer:

enough composure was regained

Explanation:

This sentence contains a dangling modifier. As it is written, it seems as though “enough composure” was taking the deep breaths. In order to correct this mistake, “the pianist” must be listed first after the comma to make it clear that he is the subject of the sentence as the one taking the deep breaths. Correctly re-phrased this sentence would read, "Taking deep breaths, the pianist regained enough composure to finish the concert."

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