Modifiers: Premodifiers and Postmodifiers


After the completion of this article/post, you would be able to

• explain modifiers.

• identify different types of modifiers used in sentences. 

• make sentences by using different types of modifiers.


1: Modifiers

2: Premodifiers

3: Postmodifiers

4: Dangling Modifiers

Part 1: Modifiers

What is a modifier?

The words or phrases that modify the noun/pronoun are known as modifiers. In other words, some words or phrases take their position before and after the noun head in a noun phrase and modify the noun adding special meaning to it. Modifiers placed before the noun head are called premodifiers while modifiers after the noun head are postmodifiers. Therefore, a noun phrase is usually formed as follows.

( Determiner + Premodifier + Noun head + Postmodifier)

Example: I saw the beautiful girl singing







Noun head


Look at the passage below. Notice the words in italics:

Elvis Presley came from a poor family. He was born on 8 January in Mississippi. When Elvis was 13, he asked his mother to buy him a bicycle which was too expensive. His mother, a poor housewife, could only buy an ordinary guitar. In the same year Elvis and his family left Mississippi. They moved to Memphis, a small town in Tennessee. One day in 1954 he went to a recording studio called Sun Records. He wanted to make a record for his mother’s birthday. The secretary at the studio heard Elvis and took him to her boss, Sam Phillips. Elvis was Sam Phillips’ dream – a white boy with a black voice.

If you notice carefully, you will see the words in italics tell us something about the nouns they modify. For example, the adjective ‘poor’ modifies the noun ‘family’. Now let us see how some other modifiers have been used in the text:

which was too expensive






a small town in Tennessee






called sun Records



for his mother’s birthday



Sam Phillips


her boss







From the examples, we see that adjectives are often used as modifiers. But there are other examples of modifiers which are not adjectives. Therefore a noun can also be modified by a phrase, a clause or another noun. We have also seen that modifiers can be used both before and after nouns they modify.

Part 1

Exercise 1

Work in pairs to find out modifiers in the following passage. Write them in the table below to show which of them are premodifers and which of them are postmodifiers.



Charles Dickens, of all the great nineteenth Century English novelists, is perhaps the most beloved by his readers. The ideas for many of the events and people in Dickens’s novels grew from his own experiences. Dickens was born in Portsmouth, on the southern coast of England, and grew up in a poor neighbourhood in London. His father, a clerk, accumulated huge debts. Dickens endured a difficult childhood, for he was forced to work in factories from an early age. His employers were often needlessly cruel. The painful experiences Dickens endured as a child worker inspired him to write Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. In these two well-known novels appear some of the cruelest characters in English fiction. Vivid portraits of schoolmasters, criminals and innocent victims are found in many of his novels. Dickens, who died as a result of continuing poor health at the age of fifty-eight, left an enduring legacy.

Part 2: Premodifiers

What is a Premodifier?

Modifiers which are placed after determiners but before the head of a noun phrase are called premodifiers. Adjectives are widely used as premodifiers, yet there are some other types of premodifers too.

Different types of premodifiers:

1. Adjectives as premodifiers:

We had a pleasant holiday last week.

There were plenty of bright people before the castle. 

Sabrina is a meritorious student.

2. Nouns as premodifiers:

Are the removal expenses paid by your company? 

The passenger ship dropped anchor in the harbor.

3. Adverbs as premodifiers:

We had a very pleasant holiday last week. 

She writes a few letters to her parents.

4. –ing participles as premodifiers:

Only a beginning student will find difficulty with Calculus. 

The developing countries are doing well in garments business.

5. –ed participles as premodifiers:

Often the reduced price of everyday commodities are out of reach for the poor. 

The defeated army were captivated in the prison.

His father is a retired English teacher.

6. Compound words as premodifiers: 

We have just bought a brand-new car. 

That’s an absolutely first-class idea. 

That is an out-of-date dictionary.

The room is decorated with red-and-white-striped wallpaper.

Part 3: Postmodifiers

What is a Postmodifier?

A noun can be modified by a following word, phrase or clause, and the word, phrase, or clause is called postmodifier. Postmodifiers are of different types:

1. Adjectives as postmodifiers:

There is nothing new about these techniques. 

They found her mother sick.

2. Adverbs as postmodifiers:

Can someone tell me a way out of it? 

The authority here are very strict. 

Can you find the road back?

We visited the house where Shakespeare lived.

3. Prepositional phrases as postmodifiers:

A white woman in jeans was watching me.

A ferryman with colourful toys was waiting in the station. 

There must be a better way of doing it.

The little boy is tired of hard work.

4. Relative clauses as postmodifiers:

I saw the boy who was going to the market

They cleaned the room which was filled with dirt.

5. –ing participles clauses as postmodifiers: 

A man wearing a grey suit left the office.

The people working in the IT business are often young. 

Do you know any of those people sitting behind us?

6. -ed participle clauses as postmodifiers:

The question debated in the parliament yesterday was about the new tax. 

The subject discussed in the book is difficult to understand.

7. –to infinitive clauses as postmodifiers: 

I have got something to say to you.

I have nothing to share with him.

8. Appositive clauses as postmodifiers:

We were delighted at the news that our team had own

Everybody will agree the fact that inflation is causing hardship.

Part 4: Dangling Modifiers

What is a dangling modifier?

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. In other words, dangling modifiers are used either as a single word or a group of words in a sentence where they usually indicate the completion of some work but the performer of the work is not modified directly by it. These modifiers usually appear at the very beginning of a sentence, but these may appear at the end of a sentence as well.

Consider the following example:

Having finished the study, Ragib turned on TV.

In the example above, “having finished” states an action but does not name the doer of that action. In English sentences, the doer must be the subject of the main clause that follows. In this sentence, it is Ragib. He seems logically to be the one doing the action (“having finished”), and this sentence therefore does not have a dangling modifier.

Now consider this sentence:

Having finished the assignment, the TV was turned on.

“Having finished” is a participle expressing action, but the doer is not the TV set (the subject of the main clause): TV sets don’t finish assignments. Since the doer of the action expressed in the participle has not been clearly stated, the participle phrase is said to be a dangling modifier.

Some more examples of dangling modifiers and revisions:

Dangling Modifier:

After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing.

(The article – the subject of the main clause – did not read the original study.)

Possible Revision:

After reading the original study, I find the article unconvincing.

Dangling Modifier:

Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, your home should be a place of relax.

(Your home – the subject of the main clause – is not relieved of your responsibilities.)

Possible Revision:

Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, you should be able to relax at home.

Dangling Modifier:

The experiment was a failure, not having studied the lab manual carefully.

(The experiment – the subject of the main clause – is not supposed to study the lab manual.)

Possible Revision:

They failed the experiment, not having studied the lab manual carefully.

Dangling Modifiers

Possible Revisions

Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was needed.

Having arrived late for practice, the captain of the team needed a written excuse.

Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

Because Sujana did not know his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

To improve his results, the experiment was done again.

He improved his results by doing the experiment again.






Of all the great nineteenth century English




On the southern coast of England


A clerk


who died as a result of continuing poor health


at the age of fifty-eight

two well-known




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