Misplaced Modifier: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Debbie Notari
Misplaced modifiers are exactly as they sound--modifiers that are in the wrong place in a sentence, and because they are in the wrong place, the sentence's meaning changes. In this lesson, we will learn to identify and avoid using misplaced modifiers.


Misplaced modifiers have two problems. First, they are words, phrases, or clauses that are in the wrong place in sentences; secondly, because they are in the wrong place, they 'modify' or describe the wrong word in the sentence. The effect of a misplaced modifier is sometimes humorous or unclear because when a writer misplaces a modifier, the sentence meaning is other than what the writer intends.

How Does this Happen?

When writers place words in the wrong spots in sentences, or misplace them, the meaning of the sentence changes. Let's look at the following two sentences:

Grace pretended to be her husband's boss.

Grace's boss pretended to be her husband.

These two sentences--both strange, admittedly-- have radically different meanings! In the first sentence, for some crazy reason Grace is pretending to be her husband's boss. In the second sentence, Grace's own boss is shockingly pretending to be her husband. Case in point--word order is critical to sentence meaning.

Common Errors

Look at the following three sentences. They all contain misplaced modifiers.

1. Made of gingerbread, the boy ate the house.

2. The opera singer in the house forgot her music for the concert.

3. Tim observed three kittens on the way to the store.

In sentence number one, it is unclear as to whether it is the boy who is made of gingerbread or the house! A better way to write this sentence would be to say: 'The boy ate the house made of gingerbread.'

In sentence number two, we are not sure if the opera singer is in the house or if she forgot her music in the house. This is a good revision: 'The opera singer forgot the music for the concert in the house.'

Finally, in sentence number three, is it Tim who is on the way to the store or the kittens? Let's fix it by saying: 'On the way to the store, Tim observed three kittens.'

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account