I have questions about the following line:

As the time away from his parents grows, what will become of John—and what kind of man is his uncle really?

Does the beginning clause ("As the time away from his parents grows") involve a dangling modifier, requiring that the next word be John in order to be correct? (For example, the sentence "Leaving home, the new place seemed nice to me" erroneously implies "the new place," not I, left home, containing a dangling modifier.) Also, should uncle have a comma here? Finally, should the line be punctuated as two questions rather than one sentence separated by a dash? Thanks!

  • The sentence is perfectly fine as its written. Although, you're actually asking several different questions about it. In leaving home, there is no subject, so what follows the comma is ambiguous. But in as time grows, a subject (time) is clearly given, meaning there is no ambiguity after the comma. – Jason Bassford Jul 21 at 21:11
  • First off, this is not a dangling modifier. Secondly and more importantly, dangling modifiers are perfectly correct. Which is why they exist in the first place. And not just in English but in a great many other languages. – RegDwigнt Jul 21 at 21:25
  • @JasonBassford Thanks, that makes sense! So you would also say that a comma isn't needed on uncle and that the line doesn't need to be punctuated as two questions? – The Editor Jul 22 at 17:19
  • @TheEditor Yes, that's what I'm saying. :) Actually, no, not completely. I was only talking about the dangling modifier. Using two sentences is personal choice. – Jason Bassford Jul 22 at 17:22
  • 1
    @Jason oh absolutely. Complete agreement on all accounts. You could, and sometimes should, choose to avoid them, for reasons of clarity and style. Just like you could, and sometimes should, choose to avoid expletives, or the passive voice, or all words with the letter E in them, or really any other tool at your disposal. But you shouldn't want to simply throw away half the tools in your toolbox. They might come in handy one day. I have like forty different wrenches in the cellar. I've only ever used maybe twelve. Doesn't mean all the other ones must be disposed of as "incorrect". – RegDwigнt Jul 22 at 17:53

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