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Dangling participles

Dangling participles

Dangling participles

"It appears to me that little Johnny didn't wet the bed."

What is it?  Who or whom is it?

I also refer to this is a pronoun that is misused because it's definition hasn't been previously defined with a proper noun, but my teachers always criticized me for using dangling participles.  I think dangling participle rolls off the tongue better, too.


For some pleasure reading, try FAQ731-376

RE: Dangling participles

Your example seems, at least to me, to be a perfectly legitimate example of the use of the "anticipatory it". (See for example Fowler's Modern English Usage, under "it"). In Fowler's words, "It" heralds a deferred subject, and announces that the real subject, which it temporarily represents, is coming along later in the sentence. In this particular case, "It" refers to the contention that "little Johnny didn't wet the bed". Fowler discusses several incorrect uses of the "anticipatory it", but I don't believe that this is one of them

RE: Dangling participles

"It is apparent to me that little Johnny didn't wet the bed." fits the anticipatory it.  You can test it by replacing the pronoun IT with the actual subject.

"It appears to me that..." is a dangling participle.  What appears to you?  An angel?  A bowling ball?  A house?  Little Johny wetting the bed is not in front of you.

Also, the word "that" in this original example is a conjunction to a dependant clause.  A dependant clause can not be the subject.

To simplify let's remove the preposition "to me."
It appears that Johny didn't wet the bed.
rephrase: That Johny didn't wet the bed appears.  -- makes no sense.

It is apparent that Johny didn't wet the bed.
rephrase: That Johny didn't wet the bed is apparent.  -- although bad order, this does make sense.

Or am I still way off.


For some pleasure reading, try FAQ731-376

RE: Dangling participles

I have heard it said that: “Rules of grammar should not be followed slavishly if to do so impedes clarity.” I don’t know who said it first – if no one knows the original source, then I have just coined “Hardy’s First Law of Clear Expression”.

For me, the key issue is: what conveys the meaning best?

In this instance, the dangling participle:

“It is apparent that Johnny didn’t wet the bed.”

Is vastly preferable to:

“That Johnny didn’t wet the bed is apparent.”

RE: Dangling participles

Who whom or what? What kind of question is that?

I don't think there is enough information to answer.
It may be apparent to the speaker that Johnny didn't wet the bed but not to me.

Was the bed wet? if so how does he know it wasn't Johnny? DNA testing? In this case it wouldn't be just "apparent", it would be incontravertable evidence one way or the other.

Or is the bed is dry? in which case, why is Johnny being singled out in this way?
Is this persecution?

RE: Dangling participles

swertel: "To appear" does not necessarily mean "To become visible". One of its meanings is "To be plain". In the colloquial manner in which it is used here, "It appears that" is equivalent to saying "It is plain that". A sentence of the form "It appears that such and such is true" is so common that to claim that it is incorrect English would seem to fly in the face of convention. I would also submit that simply rearranging the order of words in a sentence is not an infallible method for determining the correctness of grammar. And, of course, "correct English" is a moving target.

RE: Dangling participles

OK, bad example.  If I come across a better one we can pick it to pieces.


For some pleasure reading, try FAQ731-376

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