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Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of
Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting
"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of
Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank
McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell
author of The Father of All Things
"Sentence by sentence, a joy to
Phillip Lopate, Author of
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Misplaced Modifiers and Bigger Breasts
by Amy Lou Jenkins
We all hate unwanted E-mails. I usually just
delete them. One title stood out in the burdens of hyperbolic congratulations and incredible offers: " Attract Men
With Bigger Breasts." I'm not particularly fond of men with bigger breasts, but
I did a bit-o-grammar review to consider why this sentence read not just off-color, but funny.
Let's break this sentence apart and see what's wrong with it.
"Attract Men With Bigger Breasts"
Subject is an implied "You"
Verb is "attract"
The direct object is "men"
"With bigger breasts" is a prepositional phrase.
A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition, its object and any
associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun,
an adjective, or an adverb. The most common prepositions are "about," "above,"
"across," "after," "against," "along," "among," "around," "at," "before,"
"behind," "below," "beneath," "beside," "between," "beyond," "but," "by,"
"despite," "down," "during," "except," "for," "from," "in," "inside," "into,"
"like," "near," "of," "off," "on," "onto," "out," "outside," "over," "past,"
"since," "through," "throughout," "till," "to," "toward," "under," "underneath,"
"until," "up," "upon," "with," "within," and "without."
In this sentence, the preposition "with" introduces the noun phrase "bigger
breasts." The prepositional phrase's ("with bigger breasts") function is not
Is "with bigger breasts" an adjective prepositional phase describing "men"?
Is "with bigger breasts" it an adverb describing (modifier) how to attract men?
If so, it's describing an act where the subject is not just far away in the
sentence it's not even in the sentence-You is implied. We all know that
we have to keep modifiers close to the thing they are modifying.
Even worse than the misplaced modifier, I'm married. I don't need to attract
more men-no matter how big their breasts are.
More examples of awkward modifiers.
For those who are married and don't know it, spouses are
I can knit with two colors of yarn when twisted.
Hanging on the wall in a new frame, she loved the portrait.
Smothered in gravy, I enjoyed the potatoes.
Remember to keep your friends close, and your modifiers
A version of this article was published in an AO newsletter in