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3.4 Correctly Related Modifier


A modifier is a grammatical unit that changes or adds meaning to an item within a sentence. A misplaced modifier adds meaning to the wrong set of words. A modifying phrase should be clearly attached to the element of the sentence it is modifying. Misplaced modifiers distort meaning or make it ambiguous.



It is the fish and not the Peel Inlet that has been considered extinct, so the modifier “has been considered extinct” must be placed next to the noun it is modifying “a fish”.


In this example, all the people on the tour bus were born in 1980, but (presumably) they were not all born on the bus.


In this example, it is the crew who is setting sail, not their water supply on its own.

There is a category of modifiers called “limiting modifiers” that need to be placed carefully if you want your precise meaning to be communicated clearly.This category includes ‘only’, ‘almost’, ‘just’, ‘even’, and ‘hardly’.


Before you write the sentence in Example 4, consider whether you want the word ‘almost’ to modify ‘every word’ or ‘understood’. Similarly, in Example 5 consider whether it was only Peter (and no-one else) who could sing the last verse, or Peter could only sing (but not recite) the last verse, or Peter could sing only the last verse (and not the other verses).


Changing the position of “only” changes the meaning of the sentence.




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