In enwiki.org, this example is provided for showing inversion after a Participle phrases:

Lurking in the corner stood a chicken with an ax, ready to take on the farmer in a fight to the death.

In another pamphlet I found these examples for demonstrating the same topic:

  1. (Having been) annoyed by his students was our teacher Mr. Matters.
  2. Walking around the trees was my friend Alice who is Asian.

Are these sentences grammatical? Isn't it the case that these examples are causing dangling modifiers?

  • 1
    They are not dangling modifiers - it was the chicken who was lurking, Alice who was walking round the trees. A dangling modifier would be "Having eaten our lunch, the ship sailed at 2 pm" (the ship did not eat the lunch!). Commented May 1, 2021 at 12:10
  • @KateBunting Thanks for the clarification.
    – bob
    Commented May 1, 2021 at 12:22
  • The criterion/a is whether the participle phrase refers to something done by the subject of the sentence (the chicken, Alice, the ship). Commented May 1, 2021 at 12:22
  • (1) sounds very odd to my ears, in either variation. It's Yoda-speak. Note that (2) essentially uses the past continuous, 'was walking'. 'Was + adjective' & passives don't undergo inversion naturally. ??/*'Angry/kicked was I.'// I'd use a comma with (2). Commented May 1, 2021 at 14:01

1 Answer 1


The construction is grammatical, though subject to some restrictions. The idea is that the subject of the verb in question and some other element dependent of that verb have been inverted.

A chicken with an axe [subject]


standing in the corner [other dependent of verb 'stood']

Most commonly the other dependent is a locative, but other possibilities exist, as shown on p1385 of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.


i George, can you do me a favour? [Up in my room, on the nightstand, is a pinkish- reddish envelope that has to go out immediately.]

ii [Immediately recognisable here is the basic, profoundly false tenet of Movie Philosophy 101, as it has been handed down from “Auntie Mame” and “Harold and Maude”:] Nonconformism, the more radical the better, is the only sure route to human happiness and self-fulfilment.

iii She's a nice woman, isn’t she? [Also a nice woman is our next guest]...

iv Arrested were Nathan Johnson, 23, of New York, and his brother, Victor Johnson, 32, a 15-year Army veteran.

v This jacket and cap will keep you warm throughout the chilly autumn days.The jacket is made of a particularly heavy brushed denim, with rivets at the pockets and a brown suede collar. [Complementing the jacket is the cap, crafted of the same denim and featuring a brown suede visor.]

vi On Saturday they received an astonishing fourteen credit offers in the mail. [Three days later came another eight offers.]

The examples given with 'lurking' and 'walking' could be taken to be locative, and would sound quite natural in a narrative. The example with 'annoyed' would only be felicitous if it had some connection to the preceding discourse.

The two teachers had had opposite experiences with their classes. Delighted with her students was the new teacher Mrs. Smith. Annoyed by his students was our teacher Mr. Matters.

None of them fit the description of a dangling modifier, which, by the way, is not necessarily ungrammatical.

From The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar p190-191

hanging participle A participle (clause) that is not related grammatically to an intended noun phrase of which it would be the modifier; also called dangling participle, unattached participle, unrelated participle, or dangling modifier.

A participle clause often does not contain a subject, but grammatically, if it is placed near its superordinate clause, its subject is ‘understood’ to be co-referential with the subject of that superordinate clause. Failure to observe this ‘rule’ results in a hanging participle, or often, more accurately, a misrelated participle. When this happens, the participle clause is apparently grammatically attached to the subject, though according to the intended meaning, it is associated with a different *referent (which may not actually be mentioned in the main clause). For example:

Speaking to her on the phone the other day, her praise for her colleagues was unstinting (Daily Telegraph)

The meaning here is clear enough, but strictly grammatically speaking it is impossible to ‘recover’ the subject of the participle clause from its immediate context. With regard to the following example the question arises of what is shrouded:

Shrouded by leaves in summer, the coming of winter for a deciduous tree reveals the true shape of its woody skeleton (G. Durrell The Amateur Naturalist, 1982, p. 105)

The same rule (that the participle clause should be related to the subject) also applies when the clause is introduced by a conjunction or preposition. The rule is not followed in this example:

Every afternoon, instead of dozing listlessly in their beds, or staring vacantly out of a window, there is organized entertainment (Daily Telegraph)

The hanging participle is generally condemned as ungrammatical, rather than as a mere error of style. But it has long been widely used, most famously by Shakespeare:

Sleeping in mine orchard, a serpent stung me (Hamlet, I.5)

  • Thanks a lot for the thorough explanation.
    – bob
    Commented May 1, 2021 at 17:05
  • 1
    'Angry was John.' and 'Painted was Jean.' need the Force, never mind connection to the preceding discourse. Commented May 1, 2021 at 18:36

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