Modifier Problems: Find & Fix the Errors

Sometimes modifiers can also create havoc — adding words to…

Sometimes modifiers can also create havoc — adding words to the sentence that don’t belong but are still supposed to belong. Modifier problems can be fixed by rewording the sentence, removing the modifier, or moving it to the correct position in the sentence.

What Are Modifier Problems in Grammar?

A modifier is a word that describes, limits, modifies, qualifies, or includes the noun that it follows. When done well, it creates a thoughtful sentence that calls the attention of the readers. It helps to emphasize the meaning of the text and express emotion in your writing.

When the same modifier is used incorrectly, it creates ambiguous sentences. They can mislead the readers, convey a different meaning, and create unintentional humor as well. The error often relates to the wrong object in a sentence. It could also mean using a plural verb instead of a singular verb or using the wrong adjective and adverb form.

white and black One Way-printed road signages positioned perpendicularly
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

Types of Modifier Errors in Writing

Most of the errors that cause confusion or ambiguity in a sentence are modifiers. A modifier error is when a writer incorrectly modifies a word or a phrase.

When you place a modifier where it doesn’t belong, the sentence becomes confusing, awkward, and sometimes humorous. You must identify the types of modifier errors in your writing and learn to fix them. The three types of modifier errors are as follows.

Misplaced Modifier

A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase incorrectly positioned in a sentence. As a result, it modifies a word that it is not supposed to modify or describe. Any modifier can be misplaced in a sentence, be it an adjective, adverb, an adverbial clause, or phrase. The three types of misplaced modifiers are as follows.

1. Misplaced Adjectives are incorrectly detached from the nouns they modify, distorting the intended meaning.

Example: We had a hot bowl of soup in the evening.

Problem: The misplaced adjective hot is modifying the noun bowl.

Corrected: We had a bowl of hot soup in the evening.

2. Placement of adverbs can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Example 1: Just Laura returned from the party.

The sentence means only Laura returned from the party, no one else.

Example 2: Laurajust returned from the party.

The sentence means Laura has returned from the party now.

3. Misplaced phrases can make a sentence sound awkward and have an illogical meaning.

Example: The shopkeeper sold the red dress to Jenny with ribbons.

Problem: The misplaced phrase with ribbons is modifying the wrong noun ‘Jenny.’

Corrected: The shopkeeper sold the red dress with ribbons to Jenny.

Dangling Modifier

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase not clearly associated with the word it modifies. It is either connected with a word other than the one intended or with no word at all.

Example: Walking down the valley, the mountains shadowed her.

Problem: It sounds as if the mountains are walking down the valley.

Corrected: Walking down the valley, she was shadowed by the mountains.

Squinting Modifier

A squinting modifier is the one that creates ambiguity in a sentence by describing two things at a time. The sentence can be interpreted in two different ways leaving the readers confused about the meaning.

Example: People who work all night frequently suffer from sleeping disorders.

Problem: The sentence could mean that all people who work at night suffer from sleeping disorders. Or, the people who work at night a lot have sleeping disorders.

Corrected 1: People who frequently work all night suffer from sleeping disorders.

Corrected 2: People who work all night frequently sufferfrom sleeping disorders.


Modifier problems are errors that require the reader to work a little harder to make sense of what they’re reading.

Because they’re frustrating and make writing difficult, these problems should be taken care of immediately to avoid negative feedback on writing.

There are a few different ways to tackle these issues. This article is a quick guide to brush up on your understanding of modifier errors in English grammar.

Frequently asked questions

How do you fix a modifier?

  • Add a new subject to the sentence. Having the sentence subject absent from the dangling modifier is a major problem.
  • Start with a subject.
  • Rearrange the sentence

How do you know if a modifier is used correctly?

  • Use modifiers in a way that is most closely related to the words they modify.
  • In order to modify the subject of the sentence, the modifier is needed at the beginning.
  • Changing a word or phrase in your sentence requires your modifier to modify it.

What is one word modifier?

Modifiers of a single word represent word, phrase, or clause that change their meaning. The phrase or clause may be modified with a single-word modifier. The word that modifies a noun or pronoun.

How do you identify modifier errors?

Misplaced modifiers are words and phrases which are improperly separated from the word they describe or modifies. Because of this error, sentences with this error often sound awkward, ridiculous, or confusing.

How do you find the modifier?

With modifiers, words, phrases, or clauses are added description to sentences. Your modifier usually appears next to – in front of or behind – the word you mean. Use the simple adjective blue.

What are some common errors when using modifiers?

Writers make three major mistakes when using modifiers: misplaced, dangling, and squinting. A misplaced modifier. A misplaced modifier occurs when something is written so the modifier appears to refer to the wrong word.

What is a modifier error?

What Is A “MODIFIER ERROR”? Definitions that describe and change your impression of something. The way other words are perceived or understood is modified by adding more descriptive information. Modifiers include the following parts of speech: adjectives, phrases, clauses).

How do you find misplaced and dangling modifiers?

When a modifier’s subject is missing from a sentence, a dangling modifier occurs. Dangling modifiers often begin with an introductory phrase followed by a clause that does not state the intended subject.

How do you find the modifier in a sentence?

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that modifies — or gives information about — another word in the same sentence. Suppose, for example, the word “burger” is modified by the word vegetarian in the following sentence:.

Can a modifier be more than one word?

Modifiers may be combined with more than one noun to make them more precise or interesting. A word can be a phrase, a multiple word, or a single word modifying a whole sentence. Modifiers must be easily identifiable with the words they modify.

What are the 5 modifiers?

The modifiers in English include adjectives, adverbs, demonstratives, possessive determiners, prepositional phrases, degree modifiers, and intensifiers.

What is a jammed modifier?

Learn more about our editorial process. Updated on November 04, 2019. A stacking of modifiers precedes a noun in English grammar. Also called stacked modifiers, jammed modifiers of long adjectival phrases, and brick sentence.

How do you avoid a misplaced modifier?

It is important to place single word adjectives before the word they modify and adjective phrases or clauses after the word. To avoid confusion, adjective phrases are placed right after the word they modify.

What are the types of modifiers?

The adverb and adjective types are two types of modifiers.

What are modifiers in coding?

Two characters (letters or numbers) add to a CPT or HCPCS level II code. In addition to providing additional information about the medical procedure, service, or supply involved, the modifier provides information without altering the code’s meaning.

Modifier Problems: Find & Fix the Errors

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.

What do Participles Modify? A Basic Guide

A participle is a verb form that expresses an action or a state of being. It functions as a modifier…

May 12, 2022

What do adjectives modify? Writing Guide

What do adjectives modify? Adjectives modify nouns. They can identify a person’s mood (the happy receptionist) or status (the rich…

May 12, 2022

Verbal Phrase Modifier: A Basic Guide

Verb phrase modifiers are words and phrases that modify a verb or a verb phrase in a sentence. They are…

May 12, 2022

Prepositional Phrase Modifier: Basic Definition and Better Usage

A prepositional phrase modifier describes or modifies the prepositional phrase in a sentence. What is a Prepositional Phrase? A prepositional…

May 12, 2022

A Basic Guide to Squinting Modifiers

The question “what is squinting modifer?” is more common than you might imagine. What Is a Squinting Modifier? A squinting…

May 12, 2022

Usage of Adverb Modifiers in a Sentence

In grammar, a word modifies another word to add meaning and clarify the word to the reader. Modifiers are typically…

May 12, 2022

Know the Importance of Qualifier Grammar

Understanding the correct usage of qualifier grammar is essential because it is a powerful communication tool in English. What Is…

May 12, 2022

A Grammar Guide to Placement of Modifiers

The placement of modifiers determines how it interacts with the word it modifies. It will help to eliminate confusion for…

May 12, 2022

Modifier Problems: Find & Fix the Errors

Sometimes modifiers can also create havoc — adding words to the sentence that don’t belong but are still supposed to…

May 12, 2022