What is parallel structure (or parallelism)? And how does it work? Does it mean to use the same pattern of word to coney multiple ideas? And do these ideas have the same level of importance? Learn about parallel structure in this comprehensive guide.
What is Parallel Structure?
In English grammar, parallel structure (also referred to as parallelism) is the repetition of the same grammatical structure in each part of a sentence. It means using the same pattern of words to convey that two or more ideas share the same level of importance.
|Rita’s chores include dusting, taking out the trash, and feeding the dog.||Rita’s chores include dusting, to take out the trash, and having to feed the dog.|
Not Parallel: I like to paint, jog, cook, and watching movies.
Parallel: I like to paint, jog, cook, and watch movies.
Here are some examples of parallel structure:
Infinites: To see/to understand
Prepositional phrases: At the time/in the yard
Subordinate clause: Because I care/after they met
Here are some examples of elements that are not parallel:
To see/since I understand
At the time/being here
Because I care/to meet
Using parallel structure has several benefits:
- The repetition of the grammatical structure creates a common word pattern and grammatical pattern throughout the sentence.
- Parallel structure can give a sense of rhythm and order to a sentence.
- Parallel structure allows the writer to give equal importance to two or more ideas within a sentence.
- Using parallel structure improves the readability of a sentence.
Not Parallel: Participants in the workshop learned how to negotiate, communicate, and working collaboratively.
Parallel: Participants in the workshop learned how to negotiate, communicate, and work collaboratively.
Parallel: Participants in the workshop learned about negotiating, communicating, and working collaboratively.
How to use parallel structure in a sentence?
To create a parallel structure or parallelism, use the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas (words, phrases, or clauses) have the same importance. Match nouns, verb tenses, and conjunctions to form a parallel construction.
Not Parallel: Her shopping list for the party included: balloons, dessert, streamers, and chips.
Parallel: Her shopping list for the party included: balloons, desserts, streamers, and chips.
Not Parallel: Sharon likes to read, write, and eating.
Parallel: Sharon likes reading, writing, and eating.
Not Parallel: I enjoy neither exercise or playing video games.
Parallel: I enjoy neither exercising nor playing video games.
What are the five rules of parallelism?
1. Use parallel structure with elements that are joined by coordinating conjunctions.
Use parallel structure to connect two or more phrases or clauses joined with coordinating conjunctions for, nor, and, but, yet, or, or so.
Not Parallel: Her company and what its potential is are irrelevant to me.
Parallel: Her company and its potential are irrelevant to me.
Not Parallel: Although she promised to, my best friend did not take me dancing or to a show.
Parallel: Although she promised to, my best friend did not take me to a dance or a show.
2. Use parallel structure with elements in a series or list.
Use parallel structures when comparing items in a list.
Not parallel: The tribes emphasized mutual aid, collective survival, and being responsible for each other.
Parallel: The tribes emphasized mutual aid, collective survival, and responsibility for each other.
Not Parallel: Taylor criticizes public schools as they are compulsory, funded by the government, and destroy students’ humanity.
Parallel: Taylor criticizes public schools as they are compulsory, government-funded, and normalizing.
Parallel: Taylor criticizes public schools as they require students to attend, receive money from the government, and destroy students’ humanity.
3. Use parallel structure with elements that are being compared.
Use parallel structure to connect two phrases or clauses with a word of comparison like than or as.
Not Parallel: David liked to dive better than swimming.
Parallel: David liked to dive better than to swim.
Parallel: David liked diving better than swimming.
Not Parallel: Esther said she would rather pay for her education than financial aid.
Parallel: Esther said she would rather pay for her education than receive financial aid.
4. Use parallel structure with elements that are joined by a linking verb.
Use parallel structure to join two or more elements with a linking verb, where the first item is completed by the second one.
Not Parallel: To succeed is getting new opportunities.
Parallel: To succeed is to get new opportunities.
Not Parallel: To be Grace’s friend means being constantly alert.
Parallel: Being Grace’s friend means being constantly alert.
5. Use parallel structure with elements that are joined by a correlative conjunction.
Use parallel structures to connect to phrases or clauses with a correlative conjunction such as either…or, not only…but also, if…then, neither this…nor.
Not Parallel: Ben not only wants fame but also money.
Parallel: Ben wants not only fame but also money.
Parallel: Ben not only wants fame but also wants money.
Not Parallel: My dog neither likes to play fetch, nor chase cars.
Parallel: My dog neither likes to play fetch nor likes to chase cars.
How does parallel structure and parallel elements work with coordinating conjunctions?
Coordinating conjunctions join parallel elements in a sentence. These elements should be in the same grammatical form (or parallel grammatical form).
Should parallel structure be used with verb tense?
Yes. Parallel structure should be used when it comes to verb tense.
More on sentence structure:
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- Abstract Noun
- Accusative Case
- Active Sentence
- Adjective Clause
- Adjective Phrase
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- Compound Adjective
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- Direct Object Pronoun
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