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I am studying a book called, "The elements of style" and there is one concept that doesn't make a sense to me.

I copied the text from the book below.

Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition, nouns in apposition, adjectives, and adjective phrases come under the same rule if they begin the sentence.

On arriving in Chicago, his friends met him at the station. When he arrived (or, On his arrival) in Chicago, his friends met him at the station. A soldier of proved valor, they entrusted him with the defence of the city. A soldier of proved valor, he was entrusted with the defence of the city.

Young and inexperienced, the task seemed easy to me.
Young and inexperienced, I thought the task easy.

Without a friend to counsel him, the temptation proved irresistible.
Without a friend to counsel him, he found the temptation irresistible.

Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous.

Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap. Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.

My question is "What is so bad about the last two sentences?"

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    a clue for you: Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap. That would mean you are dilapidated and not the house......:)
    – Lambie
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:05
  • Related question about “dangling modifiers”: english.stackexchange.com/questions/261850/…
    – herisson
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:08
  • Weird book you've got there, since "Without a friend to counsel him" is not a participial phrase.
    – tchrist
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:09
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    A word of caution: Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" is regarded as a toxic little book that should be avoided like the plague! Anyway, "without a friend to counsel him" is a verbless clause ("He had no friends to counsel him"). "Young and inexperienced" is a predicative adjunct relating to the predicand "me/I".
    – BillJ
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:12
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    It's probably Strunk and White....(I posted at the same time). Dunno about toxic. It is old fashioned but I see no harm done here.
    – Lambie
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:15

1 Answer 1

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Answer to question

With regard to the first sentence:

Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.

"Being in a dilapidated condition" (the participial phrase) points to "I" (the grammatical subject).

The sentence, reworded and equally ludicrous, becomes

I was in a dilapidated condition when I was able to buy the house very cheap.

With regard to the second:

Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.

"Wondering irresolutely what to do next" (the participial phrase) points to "the clock" (the grammatical subject).

The sentence, reworded and equally ludicrous, becomes

The clock was wondering irresolutely what to do next when it struck twelve.

Related info

Do an Internet search for "dangling participle"

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