But when modifiers aren’t linked clearly enough to the words they’re actually referring to, they can create unintentional ambiguity. Emma Bryce navigates the sticky world of misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.

This animated TED-Ed video concentrates on the use of English modifiers in sentences. By giving entertaining animated examples of sentences, the video shows the confusion and nonsense English modifiers can bring if they are not placed properly.  It turns out that this is a common grammatical mistake that can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence. And if you think that this statement is exaggerated just look around a bit more carefully and you will find a lot of confusing headlines in the media with misplaced modifiers.

In English grammar, a modifier is a word, phrase or clause that functions as an adjective or adverb to provide additional information about another word or word group (called the head). English modifiers include adjectives, adverbs, demonstratives, possessive determiners, prepositional phrases, degree modifiers, and intensifiers. The English language contains five grammatical modifiers:

•    Noun phrase modifiers •    Adjective phrase modifiers •    Verb phrase modifiers •    Adverb phrase modifiers •    Adverbials

When English modifiers are not linked clearly enough to the words they are actually referring to they can create unintentional ambiguity. That happens very often when modifiers modify the wrong thing. In this case we have to rephrase to make it clear what the modifying phrase is referring to. Sometimes, modifying words, phrases and clauses don’t appear to be modifying anything at all. That is called a dangling modifier.

When using modifiers in English you have to avoid verbal ambiguity by making it clear which part of the sentence modifiers belong to, so that we can maintain grammatical accuracy.

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