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What is yoWur
a Modifier?
A modifier is a single word or a group of words
which can be a phrase or a clause that describes or
provides more information about a word in a
sentence. The word in the sentence can be a
subject, noun, verb, adjective, adverb, object,
complement or another modifier. Most commonly,
the modifying words are adjectives and adverbs.
As adjectives, they modify nouns and pronouns,
and as adverbs, they modify adjectives, verbs and
other adverbs. A noun too can be used as a
modifier of another noun.
For example:
➔ Modifier as an adjective: He has a
nasal voice. Or: His voice is nasal.
➔ Modifier as an adverb: Someone
sneezed loudly at the back of the
A modifier can come
before or after the noun
that it modifies.
“There is a fat baby in
that pram.”
“The baby is only plump,
not fat.”.
Adjectives and Adverbs as
Adjectives as modifiers
come more often before
the noun than after it.
Adverbs as modifiers
occur immediately
before or after the verb,
and before an adjective
or another adverb.
Adjective Modifying
It was a dark and stormy
(Dark is an adjective, so is stormy; they
both modify the noun night.)
There was a red kite in the
cloudless sky.
(Red and cloudless are adjectives, and
they modify the nouns kite and sky.)
Adjectives can also
modify pronouns
He was happy with the
way things went.
(Happy as an adjective
modifies pronoun he.)
Adverb as
The Adverb can modify:
➔ Verb
➔ Adjective
➔ Adverb
➔ Whole sentence
Adverb modifying
She breathes heavily.
(The adverb heavily modifies the
verb breathes.)
Adverbs are not just
words ending in -ly.
While the majority of adverbs
involve -ly, like quickly, slowly,
nastily, and wantonly, some
don’t, like never and often. And
then some -ly words can be
adjectives, such as an ugly
worm, timely intervention, and
monthly bills.
He often sees dragons in his dreams.
(Adverb often modifies verb sees.)
He did not feel hungry and ate
(Adverb sparingly modifies verb ate.)
Adverb modifying
He is really funny.
(The adverb really modifies the
adjective funny.)
The water is hot enough to make a
(The word enough is an adverb and it
modifies the adjective hot.)
Adverbs modify verbs,
adjectives, and other
Considering their name,
adverbs, it’s easy to
forget they also modify
adjectives and
Adverb modifying
We whisper very softly to each other.
(The adverb very modifies the adverb
Don’t confuse adverbs
with adjectives.
If it’s an adverb, it cannot
modify a thing, only an
action, a description, or
another adverb.
He now gets home more quickly with
his new car.
(More is an adverb and it modifies
another adverb quickly.)
Adverb modifying
whole sentence
Hopefully, the weather will be good
enough for a picnic tomorrow.
(The adverb hopefully modifies an
entire statement/sentence rather
than just a single word or phrase.)
Adverbs can be phrases
An adverbial phrase will
usually include words
that in themselves are
not adverbs.
To distinguish an
adjective from an
adverb, you have
to find what it is
Once again, if it’s an
adverb, it cannot modify
a thing, only an action, a
description, or another
Comparatives and
Superlatives as
Comparatives and superlatives can act
as modifiers as they are either
adjectives or adverbs.
The comparative form is restricted to
comparing two things while the
superlative form compares more than
two things.
A simple gesture
Abu's older camel died last week.
(This sentence says that Abu has two
camels, one of which died last week.
Older modifies the camel that died.)
The word very can be an
adjective or an adverb,
but we cannot use it to
modify comparatives and
Abu has the oldest camel in the
(Here the superlative oldest is used,
as there are more than two camels in
the desert. Oldest modifies camel in
the sentence.)
Multiple Modifiers
The highly experienced driver drove very quickly through
the tunnel.
Not: The highly experienced and very quickly driver drove
through the tunnel.
This sentence is wrong because the adverb quickly
modifies the noun driver. An adverb does not modify a
noun. The adverb highly modifies the adjective
experienced. The adjective experienced modifies the noun
driver. The adverb very modifies the adverb quickly. The
adverb quickly modifies the verb drove. The prepositional
phrase through the tunnel modifies the verb drove.
Modifiers can be more than
one describing the same
noun to make it more precise
or interesting. They can be a
phrase, or multiple-word, or
even just one word
modifying a whole sentence.
The modifiers must be easily
identifiable with the words
they modify.
Nouns as
A noun can modify another
noun that follows it. As a
modifier, the first noun
gives specific information
about the following noun.
In nearly all cases, the
noun that acts as the
modifier is in singular form.
We are renovating the old farm
They spent the weekends doing the
flower bed.
She kept her money box under her
The road accident injured five
He still keeps the library books after
they have expired.
When a noun used as a
modifier is combined with
a number expression, the
noun is singular and a
hyphen is used.
Noun modifiers of noun
modifiers are used
➔ You can get your rock garden tools in
this store.
➔ His company car workshop is
demanding overdue payments.
➔ Their two-partner computer business is
expanding fast.
➔ The family lived in a four-bedroom
country house.
Participles as Modifiers
Present participle
Past participle
She got a dancing doll for
her birthday.
The beaten home team was
booed as soon as the match
(The present participle
dancing modifies the noun
(The past participle beaten
modifies the noun home
Present participles and
past participles can act
as modifiers of nouns.
These participles can
in turn be modified by
Dangling Modifiers
When there is a modifier
in the form of a word,
phrase, or clause in a
sentence, there must be
something for it to
modify. If the thing to be
modified is not present
in the sentence, the
modifier is said to
dangle as it modifies
Dangling modifier: Having seen the movie
once, there is no reason to see it again.
Correct: Having seen the movie once, we
have no reason to see it again.
Dangling modifier: Bitten by a snake, the fear
was that the snake could be poisonous.
Correct: Bitten by a snake, he feared the
snake could be poisonous.
Dangling modifier: While lying under a tree, a
bee stung his left ear.
Correct: While John was lying under a tree, a
bee stung his left ear.
Misplaced & Squinting
A misplaced modifier is
a word or phrase that is
placed in a wrong place
in a sentence.
A squinting modifier is
usually an adverb that
appears to modify either
the words that come
before it or those that
come after it.
Misplaced modifier: We nearly lived in that house
for five years.
Correct: We lived in that house for nearly five
Misplaced modifier: He almost lost one million
dollars in the casino.
Correct: He lost almost one million dollars in the
Squinting Modifier: She believes massage often
improves her blood circulation.
Massage - often improves her blood circulation; or
Massage often - improves her blood circulation.