In a previous blog post, I mentioned dangling and misplaced modifiers, but I didn't go into detail about what they are.
Simply put, a modifier is a phrase that describes the subject of a sentence. For instance, "The dog" is the subject in a sentence like, "The dog caught the frisbee." The description of what the dog is doing is the modifier. Pretty easy, huh?
Since you've got that figured out, check out this sentence:
Having caught the frisbee, the dog ran back to his owner.
Is this sentence correct?
Sure it is! The dog caught the frisbee, so it makes sense that "the dog" is the first thing mentioned after "Having caught the frisbee . . . "
If " . . . the dog's owner clapped his hands in approval," came after "Having caught the frisbee . . . " we would have ourselves a problem. That problem would be called a "dangling modifier."
The dog's owner didn't catch the frisbee, so we can't use the words "the dog's owner" right after the modifier "caught the frisbee." This leaves us with the modifier hanging out there, dangling from a tree all alone, waiting to be saved. It’s waiting for its subject “the dog” to come back.
So, let’s bring the “the dog” back!
But let’s keep what the owner is doing, too.
“Having caught the frisbee, the dog ran back to his owner, who was clapping his hands in approval.”
See what I did there?
“ . . . the dog” comes right after the action that the dog took “ . . . caught the frisbee.” I wanted to keep what the owner did in this sentence, so right after I mentioned the dog’s “owner” I described what the owner was doing by saying “ . . . who was clapping his hands in approval.”
I may lose you here, but bear with me . . .
Regarding the comma I added before “who,” it is needed because the phrase or clause that comes after “who” isn’t necessarily needed. I just wanted to add it. Without the phrase “ . . . who was clapping his hands in approval” we would still have a complete sentence, right?