New SAT Grammar Rule: Misplaced Modifier

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New SAT Grammar Rule: Misplaced Modifier

Misplaced Modifier errors are one of my favorite mistakes in the SAT & ACT Grammar sections.

In a test that is almost entirely boring and humorless, this type of mistake can bring a little bit of comedy to your experience. You just have to know how to appreciate it…

What is a "Modifier"?

A "modifier" or "modifying phrase" is essentially another name for a "Parenthetical Clause" (review Lesson 9 on Sentence Structure for more details.) These phrases are never essential to the main sentence; they simply add extra details about other elements of the sentence.

Here’s an example of a "modifying phrase" (or Parenthetical Clause).

"who worked as a fireman for many years"

This phrase cannot stand on its own, but it adds detail and description to something – in this case, it would provide background information about a person mentioned elsewhere within the sentence. Notice that these commonly start with Relative Pronouns, like "who" or "where." These modifying details need to be attached to something or someone – they can’t just stand on their own. Modifiers will never be independent; they are always attached to something else from the main sentence.

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