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This paragraph is published in The Economist, Jun 6th 2020 edition as "Have Siberian fires been smouldering underground all winter?"

The part of Nestled... in the highlighted sentence looks like a dangling participle to me. The subject of the main clause is satellites which does not seem to agree with nestled.

No offence to the professionals. I am just wondering if journalists would also have a lapse in grammar.

SEEN FROM the sky, the northern stretches of Siberia in early May were a splodgy white, their thinning winter snow cover interrupted by the brown veins of meandering rivers. Nestled within some of these curves, though, satellites picked up patches of soil warmer than the ground around them. The patches grew and multiplied as the month went on. Before it was over, some were visibly ablaze.

Here are my versions. Comments are welcomed.

  1. Passive voice

Nestled within some of these curves, though, patches of soil warmer than the ground around them were picked up by satellite.

  1. Preposition structure

Between some of these curves, though, satellites picked up patches of soil warmer than the ground around them.

What do you think?

  • Presumably writers and editors are only human. – Andrew Leach Aug 1 at 12:23
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    So how would you write it? – Hot Licks Aug 1 at 12:25
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    Why does it seem completely alright to me? – Dhanishtha Ghosh Aug 1 at 12:41
  • Yes, I think it's a dangler since the "nestled" clause doesn't refer to the nearest NP, the subject "satellites", but to the object of "up", "patches of soil ...". One alternant might be: "Satellites picked up patches of soil warmer than the ground around them, nestled within some of the curves". – BillJ Aug 1 at 12:42
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    You should not make major additions to a question after it has received an answer, and in this case several comments, too. – BillJ Aug 1 at 12:52
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Satellites picked up something that nestled somewhere.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the syntax of the example - it's just potentially ambiguous to pedants who might suppose it's the satellites that were nestling, rather than whatever they picked up.

But that's a pointlessly perverse interpretation. Whether I say Hiding in the bushes I saw a fox or I saw a fox hiding in the bushes, you should probably assume it was the fox that was in the bushes, not me. And that doesn't change if I use hidden rather than hiding, nor if I discard that verb completely and just stick with the preposition in the bushes - or, say, among the bushes.

| improve this answer | |
  • And we do have a specifc way of forcing the latter - while hiding in the bushes ... – Phil Sweet Aug 1 at 12:44

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