Monday, September 17, 2007

What Was That?

My friend Noel from GameFrog Internet Cafe ( was reading a mangga (Japanese comic) the other day and he came across this sentence: "His father disappeared when he was very young." Noel found this sentence confusing because he said it looked like the father disappeared when the father was very young, which does not make sense.

I agreed with him and I said that the problem here is the misplaced modifier. Now, a modifier in the English language is a word/phrase that limits or modifies a noun. By this we mean that a modifier makes the noun clearer. A popular modifier is the adjective; for example, "That's a stylish handbag." "Stylish," the adjective, modifies the noun, handbag. It limits the idea of "handbag." A handbag, after all, can be anything from something ugly to something stylish. Ideally, we place modifiers close to the nouns they are limiting.

In the sentence Noel noticed, the modifier "disappeared when he was young" is placed next to "father," which makes it appear like it was the father who disappeared. This is the correction: "When he was very young, his father disappeared." In this correction, it's clearer who disappeared and when.

In the English language, modifiers are tricky so I will probably be posting more about them.

No comments: