How to solidify your sentences with parallelism

In English grammar, the concept of parallelism demands that there must be a balance in the structures of the words, phrases or clauses we use in a sentence. Such balance ensures clarity, fluidity in the expression or text, while also aiding comprehension and helping to sustain the reader’s or listener’s attention. It is strategic to overall beauty of language.

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Let me quickly give you one or two examples of parallelism from my statement above:

    … while also aiding comprehension and helping to sustain…

The use of ‘aiding’ and ‘sustaining’ here is an example of parallelism. We have both words not just being verbs, but they are also in the continuous form. Now imagine putting the expression thus:

While also aiding comprehension and to help to sustain …

That would be grammatically faulty because the clauses are no more parallel to each other.

 Gerunds vs infinitives

Consider the following examples too:

  • She likes eating, drinking and to sleep. (Wrong)
  • She likes eating, drinking and sleeping. (Correct)
  • He went there, held a meeting with them and has left. (Wrong)
  • He went there, held a meeting with them and left. (Correct)

While handling repeated verbs in a structure, you need to be sure whether they are gerunds or infinitives. Mixing them up can be problematic:

  • She says it’s not easy taking care of the children alone, maintaining the building and to fuel the car. (Wrong)
  • It’s not easy taking care of the children alone, maintaining the building and fuelling the car. (Correct)
  • It’s not easy to take care of the children alone, maintain the home and fuel the car. (Correct)
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Tense-based parallelism

The rule of concord states that there should be consistence in tenses in our sentences. Often, when you break this rule, you are also injuring parallelism:

The driver jumped into the car, started the engine and begins to shout. (Wrong)

The driver jumped into the car, started the engine and began to shout. (Correct)

Number also affects parallelism. Since the subject should flow with the verb, ensuring parallelism in terms of number means that both word classes have to be watched:

The President gets the report regularly,  promptly looks at it, and then swiftly pass his recommendation to the minister. (Wrong)

The President gets the report regularly, promptly looks at it, and then swiftly passes his recommendation to the minister. (Correct)

In the above, the use of the adverbs regularly, promptly and swiftly (all ly-adverbs of manner) is also instructive in parallelism.

Here is another-number based example:

    The government should not neglect public facilities such as hospitals, schools and stadium.

What is your assessment of the above? Is there anything wrong parallelism-wise? Yes. The first two examples are plural (hospitals and schools) but the third is singular (stadium). The sentence should thus be:

The government should not neglect public facilities such as hospitals, schools and stadia…

(Source: The punch)

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Updated: October 26, 2021 — 4:43 pm

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