Monday, April 15, 2013


Literally Incorrect Participial Phrases

I love teaching participial phrases! They are relatively easy, lend themselves to tons of fun hands on activities and native speakers mess them up all the time so you can give your students confidence by having them find incorrect sentences in a newspaper or magazine for extra credit.

One of my favorite assignments to give with participial phrases is the "Literally Incorrect Phrases"

First in class I show them dangling participials, such as, "Running to catch the bus Bob's wallet fell out of his pocket." As a class we find the participial phrase (running to catch the bus) and the noun it refers to ... but we can't! The sentence isn't clear and suggests that Bob's wallet is running to catch the bus. We discuss why the sentence is wrong and then I show them an example of what the sentence meant literally.

This example is from a student, but you can find examples online using your friendly local search engine.

Once I believe that my students understand why dangling participials are incorrect I hand out a list of ten sentences containing dangling participials and have students pick two. They have to 1. Illustrate why the sentence is wrong and 2. Re-write the sentence correctly. As an example:

INCORRECT: Riding along on my bike, the dog hit me.

CORRECT: Riding along on my bike, I was hit by a dog!

Now, some of my students are very artistically blessed, but others have my artistic skill. That's OK. This example below was very well done and not as artistic as others:

INCORRECT: Being flat, Kelly changed the tire.
CORRECT: The tire, being flat, was changed by Kelly.
Being flat, the tire was changed by Kelly.
Many other options, because unlike math English usually has more than one right answer.

I like to rotate this list with each class so I get a new bunch of pictures each time. Below is an example of some of more of my favorite work from past students.


  1. CORRECT: Riding along on my bike I was hit by a dog!

    1. It isn't the prettiest sentence, but the dangling participial is gone! How would you prefer it was written?

  2. Perhaps Mr Torqueingcock is unhappy about the missing comma!

    1. Perhaps! I noticed that shortly after it was posted and fixed it (pure typo on my part...I had a comma in the incorrect and not the correct...oops!). Hopefully it makes everyone happier. Thanks for pointing it out though.


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