What Are Modifiers? (with Examples)
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What Are Modifiers? (with Examples)

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause which functions as an adjective or an adverb to describe a word or make its meaning more specific.

Examples of Modifiers

Modifiers can play the roles of adjectives or adverbs.

Modifiers As Adjectives

When a modifier is an adjective, it modifies a noun or a pronoun. (In these examples, the modifiers are shaded, and the words being modified are bold).
  • Lee caught a small mackerel.
  • (Here, the adjective small modifies the noun mackerel.)
  • Lee caught a small mackerel.
  • (Don't forget that articles (i.e., the, an, and a) are adjectives too. Here, a modifies the noun mackerel as does small.)
  • Lee caught another one.
  • (Here, the adjective another modifies the pronoun one.)
Modifiers As Adverbs

When a modifier is an adverb, it modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. For example:
  • Lee accidentally caught a small whelk.
  • (Here, the adverb accidentally modifies the verb caught.)
  • Lee caught an incredibly small mackerel.
  • (Here, the adverb incredibly modifies the adjective small.)
  • Lee supposedly accidentally caught a small whelk.
  • (Here, the adverb supposedly modifies the adverb accidentally.)

A Modifier Can Be a Phrase or a Clause

Don't forget that phrases and clauses can play the roles of adjectives and adverbs too. For example:
  • Lee caught a mackerel smaller than a Mars bar.
  • (This is an adjective phrase modifying the noun mackerel.)
  • Lee caught a mackerel of tiny proportions.
  • (This is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adjective. It modifies the noun mackerel.)
  • Lee caught a mackerel which was smaller than a Mars bar.
  • (This is an adjective clause modifying mackerel.)
  • When alone, Lee tried to catch mackerel.
  • (This is an adverbial phrase (of time) modifying the verb tried.)
  • When we left him alone, Lee set up his rod to catch mackerel.
  • (This is an adverbial clause (of time) modifying the verb set up.)

As shown by these examples, a modifier can come before whatever it modifies (called a premodifier) or afterwards (called a postmodifier).

Read more about adjective phrases.
Read more about adjective clauses.
Read more about adverbial clauses.
Read more about adjective phrases.
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DANGERS WITH MODIFIERS

A modifier is best placed alongside whatever it's modifying. If your modifier is too far away, it could lead to an ambiguous or wrong meaning (first example below). Also, be aware that occasionally a modifier might feasibly modify two ideas in the same sentence (second example). Also, it is a very common mistake (believe it or not) for the thing being modified to be missing from the sentence (third example).



Read more about misplaced modifiers.
Read more about squinting modifiers.
Read more about dangling modifiers.


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