Is it compulsory to use subject in a sentence e.g "going up the hill,an old temple was seen" can we say going up the hill, they/we/he/she etc saw an old temple? or is it correct without subject?

  • Simple answer: no. The context will make it clear. You can of course add a subject, but it's not essential. These so-called 'dangling participles' are easily resolved, even if the subject is some arbitrary person. In your example, the matrix clause is a 'short' passive -- the kind that does not have an internalised complement, cf. "going up the hill, an old temple was seen by the tourists". No one applying a dollop of common sense would think it was the old temple that was going up the hill. Still not good writing, but the point is made.
    – BillJ
    Mar 3, 2018 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


Welcome to the wonderful world of dangling participles, meaning a participle that cannot immediately be attached grammatically and/or semantically to the closest noun or pronoun not in the possessive case.

You have attempted to attach a participle to an unstated passive agent, thus suggesting that the old temple itself was climbing the hill. Merely because this absurdity forces your sentence to be deciphered as "whoever was walking up the hill saw the old temple" doesn't make it a well constructed, grammatically correct sentence.

Built in the early eighth century, the temple has been visited by countless tourists.

Going up the hill, we paused for a moment to look at the old temple.

In these examples, the participles attach to the following noun or pronoun, thus no ambiguity or unintentionally comic effects.

A simple test is to place the participle after the first available noun/pronoun and see if it makes sense, even if the style is a bit wonky:

The temple, built in the early eighth century, ...

We, going up the hill ...

So, for instance:

Just turning thirty-five today, the doctors told Karen she was cured.
The doctors, just turning thirty-five, ...

Working through the night, the composer's final draft of her piano sonata was ready for publication.
The composer's, working through the night ...
The composer's draft, working through the night, ...

None of the choices in italics make any sense, meaning the sentence must be recast to avoid the dangling participle.


The answer to your question is that it is not compulsory to attach a noun to a participle, that you will hear native speakers doing so very frequently, even in the most formal contexts, and that you will read examples of dangling participles in even the otherwise most pedantic writing.

But you will really annoy some people, and as @KarlG points out risk ambiguity and unintentional comic effects.

  • Are you seriously suggesting that Going up the hill, an old temple was seen is idiomatic and well constructed merely because Jane Austen or your uncle Bob sometimes dangle participles?
    – KarlG
    Mar 3, 2018 at 12:22
  • I merely observe that such "horrors" are seen daily. It is not for me, or, dare I say it, for you to judge whether that is failing to abide by something that is compulsory. Nothing in the English language can be so described,. It evolves the whole time.
    – JeremyC
    Mar 3, 2018 at 22:54
  • You know, I would grant your pronouncement some level of integrity had you at least split an infinitive.
    – KarlG
    Mar 3, 2018 at 23:41
  • Think of a courtroom: [Are you saying then, Sir, going up the hill, an old temple was seen by the defendant?. Saying never if fine, but sometimes what is obvious is not so clear. So, I upvoted this.
    – Lambie
    May 2, 2018 at 15:00

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