1. darkfabric
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    darkfabric New Member

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    Dangling Modifier?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by darkfabric, Feb 7, 2011.

    Hi. While overlooking the content, would someone please suggest to me what might be incorrect about the grammar in the following sentence?

    "To cut the top branches with a sharp pair of clippers, climbed the man."

    I realize it's at least awkward but is it grammatically incorrect?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance.
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is not correct in modern English because after (or before) the purpose clause, which can be:
    To cut the top branches with a sharp pair of clippers, ...
    In order to cut the top branches with a sharp pair of clippers, ...
    So as to cut the top branches with a sharp pair of clippers, ...

    You need an independent clause which can stand alone as a sentence:
    The man climbed.
    'Climbed the man' cannot stand as a sentence.

    So, the correct sentence would be:
    To cut the top branches with a sharp pair of clippers, the man climbed.

    However, I would put the clippers part with the man because IMO in clear style purpose clauses should stay simple and the extra info come later:
    To cut the top branches, the man climbed with a sharp pair of clippers.

    I would probably put the clipper information into another sentence, in fact:
    e.g. To cut the top branches, the man climbed. He was equipped with a sharp pair of clippers.

    I'm trying to remember if there are any archaic constructions which allow for what you wrote, but nothing comes to mind at present. Even if there were, I'm not sure why I'd chose archaic English. Actually, I probably wouldn't put the purpose clause first, I prefer it coming second (notice you don't need a comma in this case):
    The man climbed to cut the top branches. He was equipped with/He carried a sharp pair of clippers.

    I think you may be remembering constructions like:
    Up the tree climbed the man. / Up the tree the man climbed.
    This is correct (although rather old) English, but you notice that 'Up the tree' is not a purpose clause...
     
  3. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What madhoca said.

    But even if reversed, it might still not flow too well.

    Personally I'd go with something like:

    The man climbed [up the tree] to cut the top branches with a sharp pair of clippers.
     
  4. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Not gramatically right but I know what you are trying to say. I have a minor character that speaks like this, he speaks very little but when he does...
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, that's definitely the best example!
     
  6. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Incorrect unless you're a jedi muppet.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's grammatically correct but arcane. "Climbed the man" is a poetic inversion of "The man climbed", you can push the head of the sentence to the end like that, and "climbed" can be intransitive. Frankly, I think it's a sentence that should be taken aside and shot. The only possible reason I can imagine for its continued existence is to serve as an example that there's a lot more to good writing than grammatical correctness.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    something can be grammatical [as this is] and still be poor writing...

    better quality writing would be the example shown by vm80, but without the brackets...
     
  9. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    I agree with Digitig, but would add that I'm pretty sure this is a poetic construction, and there are no rules in poetry, only purpose. In other words, so long as the words are serving an intended purpose, they're correct.
     
  10. darkfabric
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    darkfabric New Member

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    Thanks

    Thanks to everyone for their responses. I should have added that I wasn't looking for the best way to word this particular sentence. I'm well aware its construction, if grammatically correct, is awkward at best. Thanks again, everyone.

    Edward, you're right, too. This line is from a poem. Actually, it's completely different from the line in my poem but rather than subject you all to my verse, I came up with this similarly-constructed sentence. I'm aware there are no rules (so to speak, as it were) in poetry but this line, though it seems to work in the poem, had me worried. You see, the sentence must end with the word 'man'.
     

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