Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Am I correct that the following is an error, and, if so, of what type? (I'm almost positive I once knew the term to describe this increasingly common construction and that it was considered ungrammatical.)

I believe the sentence,

While on tour, the children lived with Georgiana's mother in Philadelphia,

is meant to convey:

While the parents were on tour, the children lived with Georgiana's mother in Philadelphia.

However, my uncertainty was the catalyst for the question in question. The sentence is from this section of this Wikipedia article.

Is the following sentence an error of the same type, a different type, or not an error at all?

As a roller coaster lover, that one was surprisingly boring,

which seems to claim the ride is a roller coaster lover. Instead, what was actually meant was something like:

As a roller coaster lover, I thought that one was surprisingly boring.

I know that in some acceptable constructions certain words are understood. Is that the case in either or both of my examples or in similar ones?

I realize this may be a duplicate question, but, if so, I was unable to come up with the appropriate search terms to discover it. (Which also explains my inability to come up with a good title for this question.)

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

The first sentence in your first example makes no mention of any parents, so it is not clear that it was they, the parents, who were on tour. There is a potential problem in your second example, but it’s imagined rather than real. This syntactical feature is more usually identified as the ‘dangling participle’ problem, where the ambiguity of the reference of the present or past participle of the verb can have strange consequences, as in this example:

Now damaged in the stern, the captain ordered the ship back to port.

Such instances are good for a joke, but, in practice, the context usually makes the meaning perfectly clear.

share|improve this answer
Yup. They're dangling participles –  FumbleFingers Dec 4 '11 at 15:10
When dangling, watch your participles. –  Karl Knechtel Dec 4 '11 at 16:03
@Barrie Ah, yes, dangling participle! I can't believe I forgot that one. OK, I'm not sure if you mean that the author of the first sentence n't make it clear it was the parents on tour, and so the sentence is poorly written (or wrong, or ungrammatical, or whatever the correct term is), or that I didn't make it clear they did indeed mean the parents, but failed to say so. However, I see now that I did fail say that I wasn't sure they did mean that. Please see my edited question, which may be helpful in any case. Thanks for bearing with me on this one! –  sarah Dec 5 '11 at 0:22

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.