Sentence Fluency: Avoid Misplaced Modifiers

Contributor: Delaine Thomas. Lesson ID: 12622

Throw Mom from the train a kiss. Put on the tree a decoration. Take the outside dog for a walk. If those sentences don't seem to make sense, read on to learn how to put your words in the proper order!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Do you recognize the following song? Could you make up another rhyme? What would it be?

Raffi Down By the Bay YouTube:

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  • When you were younger, did you ever sing silly kids' songs like Down by the Bay?

It is a rather silly song because you would never see animals like those in the song doing those things. A whale with a polka-dot tail? That would be really silly. However, sometimes when you write, you might put your modifiers in the wrong place so the sentence does not make any sense at all. It is very important to communicate well, so you need to have your modifiers in the correct place.

  • What is a modifier, anyway?

Before you answer that question, if you need to see the previous lessons in our Sentence Fluency series, go Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

A modifier is a word or phrase in a sentence that describes another word in the sentence. It can be an adjective, an adverb, a participial phrase, or a prepositional phrase. If you do not put them next to the word they describe, the person reading the sentence might get a completely different understanding of the sentence than you intended. To understand this better, watch Writing - Misplaced Modifiers, from engVid. Take out a piece of paper and pencil and answer these questions as you watch the video:

  1. What is a modifier?
  2. Why is it important for the modifier to be in the right place?
  3. What are some of the terms he uses to describe various types of misplaced modifier problems?

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Read the sentence below and see if the modifiers are in the correct location:

  • The bedroom is kept ready for guests upstairs.

The modifier in question in this sentence is the word, “upstairs.” When you place "upstairs" next to the noun "guests," it appears that you are referring to upstairs guests rather than the upstairs bedroom. The correct placement for the word is after the word “bedroom":

  • The bedroom upstairs is kept ready for guests.

Misplaced modifiers aren't just found in writing; they are also found in conversation. Try to think of ways a misplaced modifier could lead to a major misunderstanding in conversation.

Practice finding misplaced modifiers in the Got It? section.

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