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Modifier Placement | Worked example

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Peering into a kaleidoscope containing three mirrors set at 60-degree angles, an ever-changing, symmetrical pattern of shapes and colors filled Dana's field of vision. This is a pretty confusing, complicated sense. We've got a lot going on, a lot of moving pieces. So the first thing that I wanna do is I'm puzzling out what this question is asking in terms of the revision or even just in terms of mechanics, is what's the subject and what's the verb in the sentence? To do that, first, let's just circle all the verbs we can see, anything that looks like a verb. So we've got peering, containing, set, ever-changing, and filled. I'm gonna knock out everything except for filled 'cause these are participles or modifiers, and modifier is just another way of saying adjective or adverb. So for example, ever-changing is describing pattern, so that's not the main verb that we're looking for. Containing is describing kaleidoscope, set is describing mirrors. And for our purposes of determining what the subject is, we can just cross this stuff out. Let's just get rid of all of the modifiers so that includes symmetrical, ever-changing, and then we can get rid of this whole descriptive phrase, kaleidoscope containing three mirrors set at 60-degree angles. Let me just get rid of all of that, which leaves us with peering, and that leaves us with peering and filled. And we know that peering isn't a verb, can't act as a verb on its own because this looks like the present progressive tense, right? Like I am peering or he is walking or she is eating, but it doesn't have the crucial helper verb. It doesn't have to be attached to it, like someone is peering or was peering. So we can say that's not part of our list of verbs. All right, so our verb is filled. So what's doing the filling? This pattern. So, the core sentence is, a pattern of shapes and colors filled Dana's vision. We can also get rid of these prepositional phrase, of shapes and colors, so it's a pattern filled Dana's field of vision. Here's our subject, here's our verb. Great. So let's read this sentence again now that we've identified the subject and the verb but with all the other extraneous stuff peeled away. Peering into a kaleidoscope, a pattern filled Dana's field of vision. Now that seems a little strange to me. This feels weird to me because peering into a kaleidoscope describes the thing that comes after the comma, which isn't Dana but a pattern. So the thing that is inside the kaleidoscope, an ever-changing, symmetrical pattern of shapes and colors, is also simultaneously being described as peering into the kaleidoscope, and that's illogical. So what we've got here is a modifier placement error question. Our job for this question is to figure out the option that makes sense to look into the kaleidoscope. What makes the most sense here? So with that in mind, let's look for the option where Dana is the subject. So right out the gate, that illuminates option A. Option B, Dana's field of vision was filled. This is close, but it's ultimately, notice the possessive. The subject of this is field of vision. Fields of vision also can't look through kaleidoscopes. We're gonna say no. Option C, Dana saw an ever-changing, symmetrical pattern of shapes and colors, right? So that is describing Dana, this one's probably our answer. Let's keep goin'. Shapes and colors in an ever-changing, symmetrical pattern filled Dana's field of vision. This is very similar to option A with some of the words moved around. It's still not Dana doing the looking. Finally, option E, an ever-changing, symmetrical pattern of shapes and colors was seen by Dana. Well, pattern is still the subject of this sentence. It's just formulated in the passive voice. So that means that peering is illogically describing what the pattern of shapes and colors is doing. So I'm gonna cross it off and say C is our answer. Do you see, peering into a kaleidoscope, Dana saw an ever-changing, symmetrical pattern of shapes and colors. When you have this modifying phrase that has a comma at the end of it, the thing that comes right after it is the thing that gets modified. Let's take a look at some examples I prepared earlier. Here's an example of bad modifier placement, like we saw in this question. Edible only after a fermentation and drying process, Hilbert loves cooking with cassava. So let's find the subject and find the verb. So Hilbert is our subject, loves is our verb, but this is illogically describing a person named Hilbert as edible only after being fermented and dried, which is horrifying. So there are couple options to fix this sentence, right? One is to take this whole modifier and put it after cassava. So Hilbert loves cooking with cassava, which is edible only after a fermentation and drying process, or we could change the subject and the verb so that this modifier describes cassava as in Edible only after a fermentation and drying process, cassava is one of Hilbert's favorite ingredients. Now cassava is the subject, is is the verb, and cassava is being logically described. Here's an example of good modifier placement. Invisible to the naked eye, the plankton Jamila studied could only be seen with a microscope. What's the subject, what's the verb? Well, plankton is the subject, Jamila studied is like a relative participial phrase, you know, so it's the thing that Jamila was studying, so it's actually describing plankton, so the plankton could only be seen, that's the verb. could be seen, and only is in there because it's describing be seen. The plankton are thing that is invisible to the naked eye, not Jamila and not the microscope. So what we do here in a modifier placement question, even before we know that it's a modifier placement question, the first thing you do is try to identify the subject and the verb, and if there's one of these modifying phrases in the beginning of the sentence, peering into a kaleidoscope, edible only after a fermentation and drying process, or invisible to the naked eye, make sure that the opening modifying phrase modifies the right subject. Not a pattern but Dana, not Hilbert but cassava, not Jamila but plankton. If you can get that sorted, then confident and full of knowledge, you will succeed.