Parallelism in Writing for English Learners

Parallel bars.
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Parallelism takes place when two similar phrases are joined to make just one sentence. For example:

Tom plays the piano.
Tom plays the violin.

Parallelism = Tom plays the piano and the violin.

This is just a simple example. There are many types of parallelism and the important point to remember is that both forms must be the same. In other words, if I have two parallel verb structures the tenses must be the same.

For example:

Peter works hard and plays hard. NOT Peter works hard and play hard.

Both of these examples are single word parallel structures. Here is an overview of single word parallel structures:

Nouns

  • Jack eats fish and chicken.
  • Sarah writes poetry and short stories.

Verbs

  • Our neighbors have moved and have sold their house.
  • My sister walks or rides her bike to work.

Adjectives

  • The class is not only fun but also helpful.
  • She is not only strong but also fast.

Adverbs

  • Peter drives quickly and aggressively.
  • They work carefully and effectively.

Parallelism can also take place with phrases. This type of parallel structure can be more difficult to recognize as the sentences are more complex. Here are some examples:

  • Having fun is as important as working hard.
  • She advised me to get some sleep and take some time off work.

Here are phrase parallel structures. Each type of structure includes a note about important points/problems to take into consideration.

Noun Phrases

  • Work is as necessary as play.
  • Apples are as good for you as oranges.

NOTE: Noun phrases are either singular or plural in nature and impersonal (it or they).

Verb Phrases

  • As soon as I arrive home, I put on my shoes and go for a run.
  • Before she leaves for work, she usually eats breakfast and has a cup of coffee.

    NOTE: All verbs in a verb phrase with parallel structure have the same conjugation.

    Adverbial Phrases

    • Peter and Tim will probably arrive in less than an hour and in time for the meeting.
    • They want more time off in the summer and on weekends. (at weekends in British English)

    NOTE: An adverbial phrase is made up of more than one word which functions as an adverb. In this case, in less than an hour and in time expresses when something is going to happen.

    Gerund Phrases

    • He enjoys playing tennis and working out.
    • They don't mind waiting and talking while you get ready.

    NOTE: Make sure not to mix the infinitive (to do) and the gerund (doing) in parallel structures!

    Infinitive Phrases

    • Jackson hopes to visit his parents and see his old friends when he goes home.
    • She advised me to find some new friends and forget about the event.

    NOTE: Make sure not to mix the infinitive (to do) and the gerund (doing) in parallel structures!

    Participial Phrases

    • Discovering her financial losses and not knowing enough about the current market, she decided to stop investing.
    • Driving through the German countryside and speaking to the people, Mark began to understand the culture better.

    NOTE: This is a rather complex structure. Notice how a comma is placed after the parallel structure participial phrases that introduce the sentences.

    Finally, clauses can also be used to make parallel structures. In this case, remember that you must use full clause structure (subject + verb + objects) and that the subjects of BOTH clauses will be the same. This causes the verb conjugation to remain the same in both clauses.

    Noun Clauses

    • She said that she was having fun but not that she was meeting people.
    • Peter felt that he had made an excellent deal and that he had bought a masterpiece.

    Adjective Clauses

    • She is a woman who is intelligent and, at the same time, who seems distracted.
    • This is a product that is easy to use and that is simple to clean.

    Adverb Clauses

    • As he didn't understand and because he refused to try, they let him go.
    • Since it was easy to use and because it was cheap, it sold very well.
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    Beare, Kenneth. "Parallelism in Writing for English Learners." ThoughtCo, Mar. 26, 2017, thoughtco.com/parallelism-parallel-structure-1212405. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, March 26). Parallelism in Writing for English Learners. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/parallelism-parallel-structure-1212405 Beare, Kenneth. "Parallelism in Writing for English Learners." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/parallelism-parallel-structure-1212405 (accessed September 26, 2017).