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When traveling by sea, knowing your exact location can mean the difference between life and death.

This is one of the sentences written in Korean high school English textbook. I spent some years in U.S. and had an opportunity to learn English grammar in a few college classes.

What I learned during class was that when we make a participle construction, the subjects of the main clause and the subordinate clause should be the same. If not, it is dangled, therefore we can't use it.

Korean English text books are usually well written, yet it seems to me, in the sentence above, the subjects of each clause are not exactly the same. I want to hear from someone who knows about the grammar rules associated with the participle construction.

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  • What did you think the subject of the first clause was? Mar 24, 2015 at 5:17
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    @BrianHitchcock The subject of the first, when, clause is one or generic you. The subject of the main clause is knowing your exact location. Mar 24, 2015 at 13:10

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The sentence is OK. The subject of the sentence is "you", but this is revealed only when one reads "your". This is not dangling or mismatched, the subject is only delayed.

When [you are] traveling, knowing your exact location can mean the difference between life and death.

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    'Technically', this is dangling. The subject of the main clause is not "you", it's "knowing your exact location". I agree that it's perfectly fine, but the subject of the main clause and the subordinate when-clause are indeed completely different. Mar 24, 2015 at 13:13
  • I know we can use this sentence in every day English. What I want to know is if this sentence showed up in a grammartical test, Would this sentence be marked as correct or not?
    – user114739
    Mar 25, 2015 at 3:31
  • @Araucaria: "Knowing your exact location when traveling can mean the difference between life and death." Still dangling? Mar 25, 2015 at 6:21
  • @BrianHitchcock No that one isn't, the -ing clause there actually is the subject of the main clause! :-) Mar 25, 2015 at 9:00
  • I disagree. If 'Traveling' is the subject of the main clause, what should be the verb of the main clause? The only verb we can find here is 'can mean' As you pointed out earier, the subject of this sentence is the gerund phrase "knowing your exact location" and "when traveling" is still a participle contruction working as an adverbial of the gerund phrase, 'knowing your exact location'. If we count 'traveling' or 'when traveling' as a subject, then we have two different subjects in one clause, and that's impossible.
    – user114739
    Mar 25, 2015 at 13:51

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