Author Topic: Dangling modifier?  (Read 4454 times)

jonathanfvaldez

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Dangling modifier?
« on: January 24, 2011, 06:15:22 AM »
Hi Joe,

Cleaning up the garage, I was browsing some some magazines when I came across this sentence in an article (titled "Platon's Portraits") in Esquire's May 2004 edition: 

"Though he's a Greek who grew up in London, the iconic photographs in Platon's first book, Platon's Republic (Phaidon, $60), are a veritable primer on American culture. We asked the photographer to reflect on a few memorable subjects."

Something seems amiss.  Am I right?

Thanks.

Jonathan

Joe Carillo

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Re: Dangling modifier?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2011, 12:49:31 PM »
Yes, you’re right; there’s not only one but two grammatical things awfully amiss in that sentence—and both are fatal to its semantics:

“Though he’s a Greek who grew up in London, the iconic photographs in Platon’s first book, Platon’s Republic (Phaidon, $60), are a veritable primer on American culture. We asked the photographer to reflect on a few memorable subjects.”

The first grammatical flaw is that in the first sentence, the subordinate clause “though he’s a Greek who grew up in London” is a dangling modifier. Because of its faulty positioning, that clause just hangs there without modifying anything. Although adjacent to the noun phrase “the iconic photographs in Platon’s first book,” it can’t logically modify that phrase. Indeed, that subordinate clause should be modifying the noun “Platon,” which is its logical referent subject, but is unable to do so because the clause is misplaced.

The second grammatical flaw in that sentence construction is that it really has no valid subject. Its logical subject is obviously the noun “Platon,” but it can’t function as such because it’s in the possessive form “Platon’s first book.” Grammatically, the noun “Platon” can only function as a subject or doer of the action if it is in its subjective or nominative form, “Platon.”

That sentence needs a total overhaul to correct these two fatal grammatical flaws. Here’s my suggested fix:

“Though he’s a Greek who grew up in London, Platon has come up with a first book, Platon’s Republic (Phaidon, $60), whose iconic photographs are a veritable primer on American culture. We asked the photographer to reflect on a few memorable subjects.”

This time everything is in its proper place performing its legitimate grammatical job: the subordinate clause “though he’s a Greek who grew up in London” logically modifies “Platon” as its legitimate subject, the noun “Platon” does the action of coming up with his first book, “Platon’s Republic,” which is now the logical subject of the relative modifying clause “whose iconic photographs are a veritable primer on American culture.”

jonathanfvaldez

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Re: Dangling modifier?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2011, 01:06:21 PM »
Thank you, Joe.