Misplaced Participial Phrases: How to Correct Them

Participial phrases are a group of words that modify a noun or pronoun in a sentence. A misplaced participial phrase modifies a different noun or pronoun other than that which it was intended to modify. This occurs when a participial phrase is wrongly placed in a sentence.

What is a Misplaced Participial Phrase?

In grammar, the term “participial phrase” usually refers to a phrasal verb that includes a gerund, an infinitive, or another part of speech.

A participial phrase is a group of words consisting of a participle, modifier and pronoun or noun phrases. Typically, a participial phrase forms when other words add to a participle. Participial phrases function as adjectives in sentences, modifying the noun, pronoun, or noun phrase.

A participial phrase is misplaced if it appears far away from the word intended to modify and modifies a different word in the sentence. Misplaced participial phrases make writing unclear and conveys a different meaning entirely.

Examples of Misplaced Participial Phrases and How to Correct Them.

The placement of a participial phrase in a sentence is instrumental to conveying the intended meaning.

Participles must appear close to the words they modify to convey the intended meaning to the readers. A misplaced participial phrase does not suggest that a sentence is grammatically incorrect. It only conveys a different meaning from that intended by the writer.

You can correct misplaced participial phrases by rewriting the sentence and moving the phrase closer to the word it plans to modify.

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Here are some examples of misplaced participial phrases and a better way to write them:

1) Misplaced Modifier: Hiding in the woods, James could not see the bear. (The participial phrase ‘hiding in the woods‘ modifies James and suggests that James was hiding in the woods).

Better: James could not see the bear hiding in the woods. (The sentence implies that the bear was hiding in the woods, which is the meaning the participial phrase intends to convey).

2) Misplaced Modifier: Irene was late to Church, running through the door at the last minute. (The underlined participial phase modifies the noun Church).

Better:Running through the door at the last minute, Irene was late to Church. (Moving the participial phrase close to the noun ‘Irene‘ conveys the intended meaning).

3) Misplaced Modifier: I entered the store soaked from the rain. (The participial phrase ‘soaked from the rain‘ modifies the noun ‘store‘ instead of the intended pronoun ‘I‘)

Better: Soaked from the rain, I entered the store (Moving the participial phrase closer to the pronoun it modifies, conveys the intended meaning).

Misplaced Vs. Dangling Participial Phrase

A misplaced participial phrase is a group of words placed wrongly in a sentence such that it modifies a word different from the intended word. It could appear far away or just simply in the wrong position.

On the other hand, a dangling participial phrase is a phrase that trails in a sentence without an understandable link. Dangling participial phrases seem to modify no word in the sentence as the subject it is supposed to modify is absent from the sentence.


Misplaced participial phrases make writing incoherent and unclear. They result from the wrong placement of a participial phrase in a sentence. A participial phrase is misplaced when it does not appear close to the word it intends to modify. In this case, it modifies a different word.

Once you understand a misplaced participial phrases, you are bound to catch them on your own. Moving the phrase closer to the word it intends to modify corrects the sentence and provides the sentence’s intended meaning to its audience.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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