Parallelism in English {Faulty parallel structure and correct parallel structure}

In English, Parallelism, also commonly known as parallel structure or parallel construction, is the application of using the same structure and the tense form while adding two or more components in a list.

The use of parallelism enhances clarity and readability of a sentence, and it also gives the sentence a rhythm and a pattern to follow.

Definition of Parallelism (parallel structure)

When you add two or more items to a list of items, we need to make sure that items added to the list are parallel: they are in the same structure and the tense form. It means that if one item in the list is a noun, the other item/s should be a noun too. If one item is a phrase, the other/others should be a phrase too, belonging to the same category.

  • A noun with a noun
  • An adjective with an adjective
  • An adverb with an adverb
  • A verb with another verb
  • A phrase with a phrase (same type)
  • A clause with a clause

It is nearly impossible to understand the concept of parallelism without looking at some faulty parallel structures (parallelism error) and their corrections (parallel structures).

Faulty parallel structure: Unlike my friends, I love playing with kids, spending time with myself, and to meditate in the morning.

In the above sentence, we have 3 items (objects of the verb ‘love’) in the list of things that I love: words in bold. The first two are gerund phrases; their focus or the main word is a gerund. But the third item (words colored red) is not parallel to the other items; it is an infinitive phrase. It is using a different structure.

Parallel structure: Unlike my friends, I love playing with kids, spending time with myself, and meditating in the morning.

Now, all the three items (objects of the verb ‘love’) are in a parallel structure. Let’s look at more examples.

Example #1

  • Faulty parallel structure: Everybody misses her badly. She was kind, brave, and had a lot of passion. (The first two items are adjectives, but the third one is a phrase, focusing on a noun.)
  • Parallel structure: Everybody misses her badly. She was kind, brave, and passionate. (all the items in the list are parallel: adjectives)

Example #2

 • Faulty parallel structure: We are planning to go there, pick him up, and surprising him. (the first two are infinitives, but the last one is a gerund)

 • Parallel structure: We are planning to go there, pick him up, and surprise him.

Example #3

 • Faulty parallel structure: The captain of the team told every player to perform smartly, passionately, and with aggression. (the first two items are adverbs, but the last one is a prepositional phrase)

 • Parallel structure: The captain of the team told every player to perform smartly, passionately, and aggressively.

Example #4

 • Faulty parallel structure: When he was asked to talk about his journey that he’s had in the company, he started biting his lips, drinking a lot of water, and he was acting strange. (the first two items are gerund phrases, but the last one is an independent clause)

 • Parallel structure: When he was asked to talk about his journey that he’s had in the company, he started biting his lips, drinking a lot of water, and acting strange.

Example #5

• Faulty parallel structure: Thinking something and to do it in reality are two different things.

 • Parallel structure: Thinking something and doing it in reality are two different things.

 Example #6

•  Faulty parallel structure: The man I met at the club last night came to my home and tells me something shocking. (the first action is in the Simple Past tense, but the second action is referring to the Simple Present tense)

 • Parallel structure: The man I met at the club last night came to my home and told me something shocking.

OR

  • Parallel structure: The man I met at the club last night comes to my home and tells me something shocking.

Example #7

 • Faulty parallel structure: We wanted money, fame, and to be secured.

 • Parallel structure: We wanted money, fame, and security.

Example #8

 • Faulty parallel structure: Most people that are working in this company are young, smart, and have passion.

 • Parallel structure: Most people that are working in this company are young, smart, and passionate.

Example #9

 • Faulty parallel structure: Do what you are told or you quit the job.

 • Parallel structure: Do what you are told or quit the job.

 Example #10

• Faulty parallel structure: We can go to Goa or Pune, or we can also go to Kerala.

 • Parallel structure: We can go to Goa or Pune, or Kerala also.

Example #11

• Faulty parallel structure: All the students were told to bring the sheets and the colors, and coming on time.

• Parallel structure: All the students were told to bring the sheets and the colors, and to come on time.

Note that the first item itself has a list of items in it: the sheets and the colors.

 Example #12

• Faulty parallel structure: Whether you go to the teacher, the principal, or to the prime minister, no-one is going to believe you. (it’s redundant to use “to” before the last item as the first “to” is following all the items)

 • Parallel structure: Whether you go to the teacher, the principal, or the prime minister, no-one is going to believe you.

OR

 • Parallel structure: Whether you go to the teacher, to the principal, or to the prime minister, no-one is going to believe you.

Example #13

• Faulty parallel structure: We didn’t like your dancing, singing, and your acting. (the second item is not parallel to the first and the third)

• Parallel structure: We didn’t like your dancing, singing, and acting.

OR

• Parallel structure: We didn’t like your dancing, your singing, and your acting.

Example #14

 • Faulty parallel structure: Before we come there and start working on your idea, I need to know when it is happening, where it is happening, and the names of the people involved. (the first two items are noun clauses, but the last one is a noun phrase)

 • Parallel structure: Before we come there and start working on your idea, I need to know when it is happening, where it is happening, and who are involved in it. (all items are noun clauses now)

Example #15

 • Faulty parallel structure: We would rather go to the party than watching this boring movie.

 • Parallel structure: We would rather go to the party than watch this boring movie.

NOTE: the items that the correlative conjunction WOULD RATHER… THAN adds needs to be parallel.

Example #16

 • Faulty parallel structure: I would rather live on the streets than staying with you.

 • Parallel structure: I would rather live on the streets than stay with you.

Example #17

 • Faulty parallel structure: Ankur’s performance was as good as Rahul. (we are comparing Ankur’s performance with Rahul, which is incorrect.)

 • Parallel structure: Ankur’s performance was as good as Rahul’s. (Rahul’s means “Rahul’s performance”)

Example #18

 • Faulty parallel structure: Not many people understand that training your mind is as important as to train your body.

 • Parallel structure: Not many people understand that training your mind is as important as training your body.

Example #19

 • Faulty parallel structure: Martin’s songs are better than Justin.

 • Parallel structure: Martin’s songs are better than Justin’s.

Example #20

 • Faulty parallel structure: YouTube has not only allowed people to showcase their talent and reach to their audience, but also gave them an opportunity to make a living out of it and become a popular face.

 • Parallel structure: YouTube has not only allowed people to showcase their talent and reach to their audience, but also given them an opportunity to make a living out of it and become a popular face.


Example #21

  • Faulty parallel structure: I just want to have three things with me in life: my family, my friends, and I want my people to support me.

 • Parallel structure: I just want to have three things with me in life: my family, my friends, and my people’s support.

NOTE: when a colon introduces a list of items, make sure they are parallel too.

Common patterns of Faulty Parallel structures

Here are the most common patterns that the error of parallelism comes in:

  1. Noun + Adjective
  2. Adjective + Noun
  3. Adverb + Adjective
  4. Gerund + Infinitive
  5. Infinitive + Gerund
  6. Gerund phrase + Infinitive phrase
  7. Infinitive phrase + Gerund phrase
  8. Word + Clause
  9. Phrase + Clause
  10. Adjective + Adverb
  11. Tense A + Tense B

1. Noun + Adjective

In this case, the list will have one or more items as a regular noun, and the other will be an adjective, which creates an unparalleled structure and breaks the flow of the sentence.

  • I want dedication, honesty and smart from all of you. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • I want dedication, honesty and smartness from all of you. (Parallel structure)
    or
  • I want all of you to be dedicated, honest and smart. (all are adjectives now)
  • Dishonesty and shrewd are required to do this job. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • Dishonesty and shrewdness are required to do this job. (Parallel structure)

NOTE: a noun in any other form can also break the flow of the sentence. If that happens, change it to the common structure that the others items follow.

  • I want dedication, honesty and to be smart from all of you. (Faulty parallel structure)
    (The third item is an infinitive phrase (noun). We should change it to a regular noun it make the list parallel.)
  • I want dedication, honesty and smartness from all of you. (Parallel structure)

2. Adjective + Noun

In this case, the list will have one or more items as an adjective, and the other will be a noun, which creates an unparalleled structure and breaks the flow of the sentence.

  • The girl that I am dating is cute, smart, and honesty. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • The girl that I am dating is cute, smart, and honesty. (Parallel structure)

3. Adverb + Adjective

In this case, the list will have one or more items as an adverb, and the other one will be an adjective.

  • We have to do it cautiously, smartly, and swift. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • We have to do it cautiously, smartly, and swiftly. (Parallel structure)

4. Gerund + Infinitive

In this case, the list will have one or more items as a gerund, and the other one will be an infinitive.

  • I love teaching and to dance. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • I love teaching and dancing. (Parallel structure)

5. Infinitive + Gerund

In this case, the list will have one or more items as an infinitive, and the other one will be a gerund.

  • I wanted to eat, drink, and dancing. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • I wanted to eat, drink, and dance. (Parallel structure)

6. Gerund phrase + Infinitive phrase

In this case, the list will have one or more items as a gerund phrase, and the other one will be an infinitive phrase.

  • Jon hates watching movies, drinking alcohol, and to play with kids. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • Jon hates watching movies, drinking alcohol, and playing with kids.. (Parallel structure)

7. Infinitive phrase + Gerund phrase

  • He wanted me to call her, take her numbers, and sharing it with him. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • He wanted me to call her, take her numbers, and share it with him. (Parallel structure)

8. Word + Clause

In this case, the list will have one or more items as a word, and the other one will be a clause.

  • The guy was dark, tall, funny, and he was fast too. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • The guy was dark, tall, funny, and fast. (Parallel structure)

9. Phrase + Clause

In this case, the list will have one or more items as a phrase, and the other one will be a clause.

  • Last night, I cooked brown rice, red sauce pasta, and what we ate in his party. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • Last night, I cooked brown rice, red sauce pasta, and the thing we ate in his party. (Parallel structure)

10. Adjective + Adverb

In this case, the list will have one or more items as an adjective, and the other one will be an adverb.

  • I wanted the food to be hot, tasty, and lightly. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • I wanted the food to be hot, tasty, and light. (Parallel structure)

11. Tense A + Tense B

In this case, the list will have sentences in different tenses even when they need to show the same tense.

  • After the meeting ended, we went to a mall, and we eat Chinese food. (Faulty parallel structure)
  • After the meeting ended, we went to a mall, and we eat Chinese food. (Parallel structure)

Conjunctions used in paralleled structures

  • Than
  • As (adjective) as
  • And
  • Or
  • both…and
  • Either…or
  • Neither…nor
  • Would rather…than
  • Not only… but also

THAN

  • Faulty parallel structure: My job is better than you.
    (‘My job’ can’t be compared with ‘you.’ The same things should be compared.)
  • Parallel structure: My job is better than yours.
    OR
  • Parallel structure: My job is better than your job.

AS (ADJECTIVE) AS

  • Faulty parallel structure: Your work was as good as him.
    (‘Your work’ can’t be compared with a person (him). We have to compare the same objects.)
  • Parallel structure: Your work was as good as his/his work.

AND

  • Faulty parallel structure: I wanted money, fame, and to be secured from the job.
  • Parallel structure: I wanted money, fame, and security from the job.

OR

  • Faulty parallel structure: It must be under the bed, or on the tab, or the box.
  • Parallel structure: It must be under the bed, or on the tab, or inside the box.

BOTH…AND

  • Faulty parallel structure: I appreciate both your honesty and being smart.
  • Parallel structure: I appreciate both your honesty and your smartness.

EITHER…OR

  • Faulty parallel structure: We can either go to his place or staying here.
  • Parallel structure: We can either go to his place or stay here.
  • Faulty parallel structure: He was either taking the class or had to water plants.
  • Parallel structure: He was either taking the class or watering plants.

NEITHER…NOR

  • Faulty parallel structure: We neither invited her nor wanting to do it.
  • Parallel structure: We neither invited her nor wanted to do it.

WOULD RATHER…THAN

  • Faulty parallel structure: I would rather live in poverty than begging for money.
  • Parallel structure: I would rather live in poverty than beg for money.

NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO

  • Faulty parallel structure: He is not only smart but also does a lot of hard work.
  • Parallel structure: He is not only smart but also hardworking.

2 thoughts on “Parallelism in English {Faulty parallel structure and correct parallel structure}”

  1. Hello sir, this is a great effort to make such seems to be a tough English grammar structure but I request shooting a video on this topic.
    sir, I am glad to be in touch with your channel. sir, you are our hope for learning such a difficult concept. sir, there is an English concept touched by any YouTuber except few Foreigner is reduced dependent clauses ( noun, adjective and adverb)

    Reply
    • Thank you for the kind words, Awais! I have already made a video lesson on it; it will be uploaded on the channel tomorrow. And yes, I will be making lessons on reduced dependent clauses soon.

      Reply

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