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A correct sentence would be: When they were designing the product, they paid attention to...

Is this grammatically correct: When designing the product, attention was paid...

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    It's not a dangling modifier you have to avoid, because it's almost impossible to misinterpret. See Steven Pinsker: only worry about ambiguous dangling modifiers. Mar 11, 2015 at 14:21
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    The problem with the second sentence is not a dangling modifier, but rather the fact that from the form of the first clause one expects the subject of the verb "designing" to be the subject of the next clause as well; but then we find "attention" as the subject of a passive verb. Since "attention" clearly did not design the product, one has to mentally restructure the sentence so that it makes sense. It's unambiguous but very jarring.
    – David K
    Mar 11, 2015 at 16:31
  • Let's switch this up a bit: They paid attention to detail when they were designing the product. They paid attention to detail when [they were] designing the product. Both are fine. And both when clauses can be placed first. And both can be made into passives.
    – Lambie
    Feb 5, 2018 at 20:43

3 Answers 3

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Subjectless preposition phrases using gerund-participles have no tense and can be interpreted as referring to present, past or future time. The time being referenced is understood by reference to the time referred to in the main clause, sometimes in combination with a perfect construction in the preposition phrase.

  • Before taking my aspirin, I shall drink a glass of water.
  • Before taking my aspirin, I drink a glass of water.
  • Before taking my aspiring, I drank a glass of water.
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  • So, this is incorrect: "When design the product, attention was paid..." Am I correct?
    – vothaison
    Jul 20, 2017 at 7:12
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    @vothaison Almost but you need "designing" instead of "design". Jul 20, 2017 at 8:13
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You have a dangling modifier there. You could fix it by saying

When designing the product, they paid attention to . . .

Just follow the template of your first sentence.

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  • And if I write it in passive form as I did it, is it "dangling" thus incorrect? (Imagine it as a sentence in a product description for example in which no subjects are being used.) Or should I then use "at" for example? Like: At the design process of the product, attention was paid... Would it sound right?
    – tom
    Mar 11, 2015 at 13:21
  • I would say When they designed the product, attention was paid to . . . or else something like During the design process, attention was paid to . . .
    – Robusto
    Mar 11, 2015 at 13:31
  • Or: When the product was being designed, attention was paid ... . Presumably the reason the sentence was changed to passive in the first place was to avoid mentioning the designers, so putting they back in is not a useful solution. Mar 11, 2015 at 14:19
  • Or, as I also said, During the design process, attention was paid . . . which is arguably a tad more felicitous without losing the passivity.
    – Robusto
    Mar 11, 2015 at 14:22
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While they were designing the product, they paid attention to... (1) correct

They paid attention to ... , while they were designing the product. (2) correct

That's because we give (while + was/were +v.ing) to the previous action that was interrupted by another action -The newest action takes (when+V2).

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