Need a brief review of parts of speech? It might help you to understand modifiers better.
We are used to the notion that adjectives are modifiers. But did you know that verbs can be adjectives? Well, verb forms, called "verbals," can function as adjectives.

A verbal is an -ing or -ed form of a verb without its auxiliary.

(Gerunds, which are the -ing form also, are nouns, and are covered in Subjects and Verbs.)

For example:
The man came running down the hill, pumping his arms rapidly.

Notice you can move the modifier:
Pumping his arms rapidly, the man came running down the hill.

The little girl entered the room, all decked out in buttons and bows.
Again: All decked out in buttons and bows, the little girl entered the room.

Note: These modifying phrases must be clearly attached to their noun; otherwise they're called "dangling modifiers."

Wrong: Whirring and pinging, the man cursed the broken candy machine.
(It's the machine, not the man, that's whirring and pinging.)

Right: Whirring and pinging, the broken candy machine couldn't give the cursing man his item.

Wrong: Clucking like an old hen, the children raced past the crossing guard.
(It's not the children that are clucking like an old hen; it's the guard.)
Right: Clucking like an old hen, the crossing guard struggled to control the children racing past.

These quizzes are self-paced and give you immediate feedback. They are entirely private; no one will know you have taken one.

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 Last Modified: 8/14/2009 11:10:58 AM