hits from the blog

The dangling modifier (and other suggestive grammatical terms)

The dangling what …?

Yes, the dangling modifier (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Although its true definition is far from risqué, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this, along with a few other saucy grammatical terms, had been plucked straight out of a Monty Python script.

If you’re at all familiar with Python’s rather naughty double entendre, you may get a kick out of the following (loosely-explained) lexical lingo.

Anticipatory:  (ooh)

A word that is used to anticipate something that appears later in the same sentence.

Bare infinitive:  (tee hee hee)

A verb used without the word ‘to’, e.g. you must leave as opposed to I want to leave.

Base form:  (I say!)

A base word with no added inflexions, e.g. walk (as opposed to walked) or child (as opposed to childish).

Combining form:  (ooh la la)

The combo of two separate elements to create one word/meaning, e.g. bio (life) + ology (study) = biology.

Compounding:  (oh my!)

When two or more words unite to become one word, e.g. book + case = bookcase.

Copula:  (lord have mercy!)

A verb that tells us more about the ‘subject’.  Primary examples:  is, be, become, remain, seem, taste etc.

Dative:  (good heavens)

A noun or pronoun is in the Dative case when used as the indirect object, e.g. the word me in the sentence Lisa gave me a puppy.

Dangling modifier:  (my giddy aunt!)

A modifier provides more information about a word.  It is considered dangling when a sentence isn’t clear about what is being modified.  E.g. The big.  Huh?  #dangling.  The big dog = clear meaning.

Genitive:  (oh dear)

A noun or pronoun is in the Genitive case when it shows possession, e.g.  In the sentence, I borrowed Lisa’s shoes; Lisa is the noun in Genitive case.

Head:  (lawks-a-lordy!)

Typically, the head is the main part of a phrase. E.g., in her long white dress – the word dress is the head term. The other words are describing the head term.

Intensifier:  (heavens to Betsy)

A word, phrase or prefix which gives force or emphasis, e.g. adverbs such as very, extremely, utterly, or adjectives such as complete.

Interjection: (heavens to Murgatroyd!)

A word which typically represents an exclamation or command, e.g. eureka or hush, and functions independently of other words.

Second person:  (ok, yes)

A pronoun used to indicate the person (group) being addressed, e.g. you, your, yours, yourself, and yourselves.

Subordinate clause:  (gosh)

A part of a sentence that needs another part to make sense, e.g. in the sentence I am glad that you came; ‘that you came’ would be the subordinate clause.

Third person:  (Oh my stars and garters!)

The person, thing or group being spoken or written about, e.g. he, him, his, hers, herself, it, they, them etc.           

Unmarked genitive:  (*blush)

An archaic use of the Genitive case, removing the ownership apostrophe, e.g. my sister son, instead of my sister’s son.

Vocative:  (goodness gracious)

A case used to indicate the person or thing being addressed, e.g. come here, boy or speak, friend.


If all that has left you feeling a little hot under the collar, you could be more of a grammar fiend than you care to admit.  Maybe this language stuff is not only for the bookworms (ooh, compound!) after all.  Here we have proof that even the most mundane of rules and regulations can be fun.  You just have to know where to look.

If you don’t believe me, ask Brian.  Although he’s technically not the Messiah, he’d still offer the sage advice to always look on the bright side.