Parallel Structures

Parallel construction

Your writing will be clearer if you use parallel construction. By parallel construction, we mean words or expressions of similar form.

Consider the sentence given below.

  • Alice likes sewing, painting and to play tennis.

The above sentence does not follow parallel construction. To make it parallel, change the infinitive (to play) into –ing form.

  • Alice likes sewing, painting and playing tennis.

More examples are given below.

  • The new player is strong, clever and intelligent.
  • I only eat salads; I rarely eat chips; and I never touch chocolate.

When you list items, make sure that they are in similar form.

Here are some tips for ensuring that your sentences have parallel structure.

When listing non-finite verbs after a main verb, keep them in the same form. For example, if you use infinitives, stick to them. If you use gerunds, stick to them. Don’t put a gerund after an infinitive or an infinitive after a gerund although it is possible in a few cases.

  • I want to sing, dance and play. (NOT I want to sing, dance and playing.)
  • She enjoys singing, dancing and listening to music. (NOT She enjoys singing, dancing and to listen to music.)

Keep verbs in the same tense. If you begin writing in the past tense, don’t change to the present.

  • Incorrect: I went to the store, bought some clothes, came home, took a shower and change clothes.
  • Correct: I went to the store, bought some clothes, came home, took a shower and changed clothes. (Note that all verbs listed in the sequence are in the past tense.)

Don’t inject an adjective into a list of adverbs. Similarly, don’t add an adverb into a list of adjectives.

  • Incorrect: She spoke clearly, loudly and in a fluent manner.
  • Correct: She spoke clearly, loudly and fluently.
  • Incorrect: The new player is stronger, clever and intelligent. (Here one adjective is in the comparative degree and the other two adjectives are in the positive degree.)
  • Correct: The new player is strong, clever and intelligent. (All adjectives are in the same degree of comparison.)
  • Incorrect: James told me that he liked theater, that he wanted to be an actor, and wrote plays.
  • Correct: James told me that he liked theater, that he wanted to be an actor, and that he wrote plays.
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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