Commas: Free Modifiers

What are free modifiers?

Free modifiers are phrases or clauses that are at the end of sentences and are easily moved from the end of the sentences to the middle or beginning of them while retaining the meaning of the sentence. A modifier is a phrase or clause that is used to describe something by referring to it; a free modifier can refer to the beginning or middle of the sentence. Most are not a complete thought on their own and need the rest of the sentence to make sense. They add details to sentences.

Offsetting free modifiers with commas

Free modifiers are offset with a comma at the end of a sentence. If you can move the modifier to another portion of the sentence while also maintaining the sentence meaning, it requires an offsetting comma. Consider the following examples:

Example 2:

  • Crystal stayed up all night reading a book, enjoying every minute of it.
  • Enjoying every minute of it, Crystal stayed up all night reading a book.
  • Crystal, enjoying every minute of it, stayed up all night reading a book.

In the above example, the modifier “enjoying every minute of it” is a free modifier because it is easily moved to another location within the sentence without changing the meaning. Only the first sentence in the example is a free modifier; if the modifier is not at the end of the sentence, it is a different type of modifier.