09 Aug

Most Banking exam aspirants understand the importance of knowing grammatical rules. However, only knowing these rules isn’t enough to crack the tricky sentence error spotting & sentence improvement questions asked in competitive exams. The ability to apply the rules proves to be the differentiating factor in the exam.  Once a candidate has this ability, grammar no longer remains an area of concern for him.

Within grammar, you must study modifiers in detail. It’s one of those topics that generally pose problems if you aren’t attending classes at the Institute for Best IBPS Coaching in Delhi. However, if you go through the fundamentals of modifiers explained below, you won’t face much of a problem.

What are Modifiers?

Modifiers are the words or phrases / clauses that modify other words. They qualify, change or describe other words. Modifiers can be categorized into three broad categories:

  • Adjectives – Adjectives are the words modifying nouns and pronouns.
  • Adverbs – Adverbs are the words modifying verbs, adjectives & other adverbs.
  • Phrases/Clauses – Phrases and clauses are groups of words that modify other words.

Modifier Placement


In a sentence, it is important to place a modifier correctly. If a modifier is not in its proper position, it ends up modifying something else. Most often, the meaning of the sentence gets distorted and the sentence may even become meaningless. The problem is particularly severe when a modifier acts as a phrase or a clause.

Therefore, it is essential to put a modifier at the right place. The basic principle is that the modifier must be next to the thing that it is supposed to describe or qualify. So, first of all, you must determine what the modifier is and what it modifies. Post that, the task of placement becomes much easier.

Problems with Modifiers

Problems related with the use of modifiers can be discussed under the following headings.

(I) Misplaced Modifiers

misplaced modifier

(A) Problem – As the name suggests, a misplaced modifier is a wrongly placed modifier. It is present at a place where it should not be. When this happens the modifier ends up discussing something other than what it was supposed to discuss. The sentence ends up conveying something other than what it intended to convey.

(B) Resolution – The best way to correct misplaced modifiers acting as a phrase or clause is to place these modifiers before the subject they modify. The error gets rectified as soon as the misplaced modifiers are assigned proper positions.


Incorrect: Flying out of the window, the naughty girl grabbed the papers. (‘Flying out of the window’ is the modifying phrase and it should be next to ‘papers’ & not ‘the naughty girl’.)

Correct: The naughty girl grabbed the papers, flying out of the window.


Incorrect: A mermaid appeared in my dream that sang like a goddess. (‘That sang like a goddess’ is the modifying phrase and it should be next to ‘mermaid’ & not ‘dream’)

Correct: A mermaid that sang like a goddess appeared in my dream.

(II) Dangling Modifiers

dangling modifier

(A) Problem – ‘Dangling’ refers to something that has been left hanging awkwardly. A modifier becomes dangling when the subject being modified by it goes missing. The subject that is supposed to be modified is absent from the sentence. The writer of the sentence fails to mention the subject of the modifier. The modifier is left hanging; it does not get support of the subject it intended to modify.

(B) Resolution – The dangling modifier problem can be resolved when we provide the modifier with its appropriate subject. Once the modifier receives the support of this subject, it does not remain dangling any longer.


Incorrect: Walking on the grass, a snake bit him. (‘Walking on the grass’ is the dangling modifier as the sentence does not mention the person (the subject) who was walking.)

Correct: While he was walking on the grass, a snake bit him. (Now, ‘he’, the subject has been mentioned)


Incorrect: When choosing the right coaching institute, many aspects should be considered. (‘When choosing the right coaching institute’ is the dangling modifier as the sentence does not mention who is choosing the institute.)

Correct: When choosing the right coaching institute, students should consider many aspects. (Now, ‘students’, the subject has been mentioned)

(III) Squinting Modifiers

Squinting modifier

(A) Problem – Squinting modifiers are characterized by the confusion that crops up because of their presence in a sentence. The confusion is the result of ambiguous placement of the modifier. It is not clear as to what is getting modified by the modifier. It is not certain which way the modifier is ‘looking’. Hence, such a problem is known as the squinting modifier. Quite often, the sentence ends up conveying more than one meaning and it is not certain what the intended meaning was.

(B) Resolution – This confusion can be dispelled, when we place the modifier in such a way that it conveys the intended meaning and does not modify anything else. Depending on the meaning that is intended to be conveyed, the sentence can be written in more than one way.


Incorrect: Running quickly makes her breathless. (The sentence is confusing. We are not sure whether she is running quickly or becoming breathless quickly.)

Correct – I: Fast running makes her breathless. (Over here, she is running quickly)

Correct – II: Running makes her breathless quickly. (Now, she is getting breathless quickly)


Incorrect: Learners who seek their teacher’s feedback often can improve their marks. (The sentence is confusing. We are not sure what’s happening often, seeking the feedback or improvement in marks)

Correct – I: Learners who often seek their teacher’s feedback can improve their marks. (Over here, the feedback is being sought often)

Correct – II: Learners who seek their teacher’s feedback can often improve their marks. (Now, the improvement is happening often)

(IV) Limiting Modifiers

Limiting modifier

Limiting modifiers are the ones that impose some restrictions on the words that come immediately after them. Given below is the list of words that are known as limiting modifiers:

  • Just
  • Only
  • Almost
  • Hardly
  • Scarcely
  • Barely
  • Always
  • Merely
  • At first
  • Nearly
  • Simply

You must be careful with the use of limiting modifiers. If the limiting modifier is not assigned its proper position, it may end up limiting something else.

(I) Only Alice likes ice-cream. (Here, ‘only’ is limiting Alice and the meaning is that none else, but Alice likes ice-cream.)

(II) Alice likes only ice-cream. (Here, ‘only’ is limiting ice-cream and the meaning is that Alice does not like anything, but ice-cream.)

Having learnt the concepts related to modifiers and their placement, you must go through the study material provided by any of the Top Bank Exam Coaching Centres. For further practice, you can even attempt the online test series available on the internet. All this effort will improve your speed & accuracy and take you closer to cracking Bank PO / Clerk exams.


This article on modifiers has been written keeping in mind the candidates involved in competitive exam preparation. Out here, the particular focus has been on Banking and SSC exams. For further information and guidance on any aspect, you can write to vidyagurudelhi@gmail.com.

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