CAT Grammar – Modifiers – Types & Errors

We all have studied modifiers in our schools, but it is the right time to brush it up as CAT and other MBA entrance exams often feature questions based on modifiers and their errors. In such questions, you're required to identify the error and use the correct form of the modifier. Before discussing various types of modifiers, let's go through some basics of modifiers.

What Is a Modifier?

As the name indicates, modifiers modify the meaning of the sentence, by making it more specific and detailed. Modifiers add meaning to the other element on which it is dependent. The grammar of the sentence is not affected even if you remove the modifier.

Modifiers are a word, phrase, or clause that qualifies other words in a sentence. They can assume the role of any part of the speech: adjectives, adjective clauses, adverbs, adverb clauses, participle phrases, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, etc. Let's discuss various types of modifiers that you may come across:

Types of Modifiers

Adjective Modifiers: We all know that adjectives are describing words. They modify a noun or a pronoun. Let's see some examples to understand better:
  • They live in the white house across the street. In this sentence, 'white' is the adjective modifying the house.
  • The workshop on climate change was attended by several activists. (Here, 'several' is the adjective modifying the noun activists.)

Adverb Modifiers: Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Let's explore some examples:
  • This is a great story. (The adverb 'great' modifies the word story.)
  • John would be extremely happy if you could have a word with Sia. (Here, the adverb extremely modifies the word happy.)

Common Errors in The Use of Modifiers:

Let's learn about some different kinds of errors that occur due to misplacement or incorrect usage of modifiers. These errors can change the meaning of the sentence.

Misplaced Modifier: As the name suggests, a misplaced modifier is a modifier that is not placed correctly. If the modifier is not placed correctly, the sentence will not convey the correct meaning.
For Example: Jenny wore the cap on her head, which she bought yesterday.
Did she buy the head yesterday? No, she bought the cap yesterday. Hence, the correct form of the sentence will be: She tried the cap which she bought yesterday, on her head.

Dangling Modifier: Dangling means hanging or unattached. Dangling modifiers appear in sentences that seem incomplete. Such modifiers are placed at the beginning of the sentence, which seems to miss the part being modified. Generally, these modifiers exist as prepositional phrases, participial phrases, or infinitive phrases.

For instance: At the age of nineteen, my friends went on a trip to Los Angeles.
What do you think at the age of nineteen' modifies? Well, you have guessed correctly that something is missing in the sentence.
The correct way should be: When I was nineteen, my friends went on a trip to Los Angeles. Here, the phrase is changed to a dependent clause, 'When I was nineteen'.
Let's look at one more example: Waiting for the bus, a brick fell on my foot. Was the brick waiting for the bus? No, so we have to add the subject here.
The correct form of the sentence should be: While I was waiting for the bus, a brick fell on my foot.

Squinting Modifier: This error is caused due to the misplacement of adverbs in a sentence. In such a case, the structure of the sentence may seem correct, but the meaning is not clear.

For example: Students who skip their classes often score poor marks.
Do you think it is the correct way to write a sentence? The correct way is to place the modifier before the word they modify in a sentence.
In the example, you can't tell which part of the sentence the adverb 'often' modifies. The correct form of the sentence should be:
Students who often skip their classes score poor marks. The meaning of the sentence is clear, stating: Students who skip their classes score poor marks.
There's no ambiguity in the meaning of the sentence. The squinting modifier is also called a two-way modifier.


We hope that now you are well-versed with the types and errors of the modifiers. Lastly, you have to practice as many error-correction questions and apply the above-stated rules.
You can start your CAT online preparation and make sure to practice as many questions as possible on every topic.

A California-based travel writer, lover of food, oceans, and nature.

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