Dangling modifiers

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A reader asked the following grammar question:

Faced with danger, a human’s adrenalin will be produced much faster.
Is this sentence correct? I think that “faced with danger” is a dangling participle, so this sentence is wrong. Am I right? If this sentence is really wrong, how should I revise it?

 

The reader is correct when he feels that something is wrong, but we need to tease the sentence apart a little to see exactly what.

Dangling participles

According to Dictionary.com, a dangling participle is a phrase that upon close reading, modifies something other than what it was intended to modify. As in this example, the dangling participle is often found at the beginning of the sentence.

Grammar Girl has a great description of the dangling participle. She starts by explaining that participles are verb forms, but the present participle (the -ing form) can also be used as an adjective. For example: “I am running” uses a present participle, while “The running man…” uses an adjective.

So a participle phrase is a phrase containing a participle. In this case the participle is the past participle “faced”. So if there is a verb, then there must be a subject. Who is faced with danger.

In the main clause, the subject is “a human’s adrenaline”. Now, I hope you’re starting to see the problem. The verb in the participial phrase is not the action of the adrenaline, but of the human. Therefore, we need to change the main clause to fix this.

Faced with danger, a human will produce adrenaline much faster.

This has the added advantage of changing the main clause from a passive form to an active form.

Hopefully, a dangling modifier?

In a sentence like “Hopefully, my car will make it to California”, obviously it is not the car who is hopeful. This type of sentence construction drives many people crazy because they see “hopefully” as a dangling modifier.

However, remember that we define the parts of speech by the function. In this sentence, we could see “hopefully” as an interjection, as documented here. It simply expresses an emotion of the speaker. In fact, native speakers use this type of construction regularly and everyone understands the meaning clearly.

Finally, this construction is being accepted. In 2012, the Associated Press announced that it would allow this construction. Hopefully, grammarians can relax.

Go ahead. Ask me a grammar question.