top of page

Lesson 2.4 Movable Modifiers and Introductory Elements

downloadable worksheet


We can call phrases and clauses that add non-essential information about time, manner, reason, cause, etc. movable modifiers because they can occur in a variety of positions in a sentence. Adverbs are one type of well-known modifying phrases that can move around:


            She carefully picked up the kitten.

            She picked up the kitten carefully.

            Carefully, she picked up the kitten.


            He often forgets to bring his lunch.

            He forgets to bring his lunch often.

            Often, he forgets to bring his lunch.


Do the different positions of the adverb in each of these examples affect the meaning? If so, how?


Note that when the modifying phrase occurs at the beginning of the sentence, it is typically set off by a comma.


Movable modifiers are not just adverbs; they can also be noun phrases, prepositional phrases, certain types of verb phrases, adjective phrases, and even clauses.


Movable Noun Phrase Modifiers


            I don’t want to be late this time.

            Yesterday I went shopping.

            We leave for vacation tomorrow.

 (Sometimes these kinds of NPs are called adverbs, but they aren't; they are noun phrases. Try some of the noun tests from Lesson 1.2  to see how they act like nouns.)


Movable Prepositional Phrase Modifiers


            At noon, she took the train to Seattle.            

            Jack went home after his soccer game.                        


subordinating PP modifiers (modifiers that include a subordinate clause):


Mary went to bed late, though she had to get up early.

            When she gets a chance, Lil will finish the extra assignment.


Movable Adjective Phrase Modifiers         


            Totally excited, Beulah left her rehearsal.

            Ella hung up her phone, shocked.           


(Adjectives frequently function as modifiers (inside a noun phrase, for example: the green chair), but when APs are movable modifiers, they modify NPs, and occur in clause-initial or clause-final position (rather than within the noun phrase).)


Movable VP Modifiers


Participial - the verb in these VP modifiers is either a present or past participle


            Driven by the desire to win, the runners pushed themselves to the limit.

            Ivy woke from a nightmare, screaming.           


Infinitival – the verb in these VP modifiers is an infinitive (a tenseless verb, to + verb)


Hugh wore a fluorescent vest (in order) to be seen.           

           (In order) to be at school on time, the teenagers get up at 6 a.m.


Movable Participial Clause Modifiers


            Her eyes squinting in the sun, Beulah watched the tennis match.

            Ike read the morning paper, his dog curled up at his feet.

(These clauses have a subject and a verb, but the verb is not a tensed verb; it is participial.)


Take the following simple sentences and add an example of the listed movable modifiers to the beginning of each.


I brushed my teeth.                                                (participial VP movable modifier)

We went to buy sunglasses.                                   (movable participial clause modifier)

Sue want to read her book.                                    (PP movable modifier)

Bill wanted to change his itchy pants.                   (AP movable modifier)

My friends went to the mall.                                   (NP movable modifier expressing time)

I won’t be going on the trip.                                    (AdvP movable modifier)


key words: parts of speech, introductory elements, commas, punctuation, modifiers, adverbs


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1a Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them). 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2b Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.3a Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style. 


Here is this lesson as a pdf.


bottom of page