Modifiers placement: A common mistake for Spanish speakers.

A modifier is a word that changes, clarifies, qualifies, or limits a particular word in a sentence in order to add emphasis, explanation, or detail.

Modifiers are especially adjectives or nouns used attributively.  A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies and describes.

Misplacing elements is one of My 8 Most Common Grammar Mistakes. The reason? In Spanish we use long sentences and long nouns to express a general idea. These long nouns are rich in feelings but no in action. Spanish language is musical while English language is plain and strong.

Opposite to Spanish, English focuses on short sentences with short nouns and short active verbs that drive the story forward.

Misplaced adjectives:

In English, the adjectives are placed before the noun they modify. In Spanish is just the opposite most of the cases.

  • The child ate a cold dish of cereal for breakfast this morning.
  • The child ate a dish of cold cereal for breakfast this morning.

Placement of adverbs:

  • Adverbs provide information about how, when or where something is done. Adverb placement is usually at the end of a sentence or phrase although it can happen in the initial or mid-position.
  • Adverbs of manner (End position) tell us ‘how’ something is done. Example: Susan hasn’t done this report accurately.
  • Adverbs of place (End position) tell us ‘where’ something is done. Example: Barbara is cooking pasta downstairs.
  • Adverbs of time (Initial or End position) tell us ‘when’ something is done. Example: Angie likes relaxing at home on weekends.  Tomorrow Peter is going to visit his mother in Chicago.
  • Connecting adverb (Initial position) to join a statement to the preceding clause or sentence. For instance, however, consequently, then, next, and still. Example: Life is hard. However, life can be fun.
  • Focusing Adverbs (Middle position) Adverbs of frequency (sometimes, usually, never, etc.), adverbs of certainty (probably, certainly, etc.) and comment adverbs (adverbs expressing an opinion such as ‘intelligently, expertly, etc.’) can all be used as focusing adverbs. Example: I’ll certainly buy a copy of his book.

Misplaced phrases:

  • The dealer sold the Cadillac to the buyer with leather seats. 
  • The dealer sold the Cadillac with leather seats to the buyer.

Misplaced clauses:

  • The waiter served a dinner roll to the woman that was well buttered.
  • The waiter served a dinner roll that was well buttered to the woman.

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