Parallel Structure

Parallel structure is when you balance the grammatical structures of words, clauses, sentences, or phrases in your writing.

They are important for any kind of writing and speaking in order to maintain coherency.

In this particular lesson we'll look at parallel words and phrases.

We make words or phrases parallel when we are writing things in a list or series, and each word must have the same grammatical form.

For words, nouns are balanced with nouns, adjectives with adjectives, verbs with verbs, gerunds with gerunds, and so on.

For phrases, prepositional phrases are balanced with prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases with infinitive phrases, and gerund phrases with gerund phrases.

The coordinating conjunctionand’ is usually used to connect the parallel items, but other coordinating conjunctions such as ‘or’ and ‘nor’ may be used.

Correlative conjunctions such as 'both/and', 'neither/nor' and 'whether/or' are also used as connectors.

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Examples of Parallel Structure

 

Infinitives / Gerunds

She wants to go to England and studying at the London School of Economics. (WRONG)

She wants to go to England and study at the London School of Economics. (CORRECT)

The first sentence is wrong because the first item in the list, to go, is an infinitive, but the second item, studying, is a gerund. In order to correct it, studying has been changed to an infinitive.

 

 

Adverbs

John ensured that he gave his two minute talk confidently, effectively and persuasive. (WRONG)

John ensured that he gave his two minute talk confidently, effectively and persuasively. (CORRECT)

The first sentence is incorrect as the last item in the series, persuasive, is an adjective, whereas the first two items are adverbs. The second sentence has been corrected by changing persuasive to the adverb, persuasively.

 

 

Adjectives

The room was comfortable, airy, and it was not dirty. (WRONG)

The room was comfortable, airy, and clean. (CORRECT)

The first sentence is incorrect, since the first two items in the series, comfortable and airy, are adjectives, whereas the last item, it was not dirty, contains a verb. The second sentence has been corrected by changing it was not dirty to the adjective clean.

 

 

Infinitive Phrases

I can't decide whether to take a bus or riding my bicyle to work. (WRONG)

I can't decide whether to take a bus or (to) ride my bicyle to work. (CORRECT)

The first sentence is wrong because an infinitive and gerund phrase have been mixed together. The second is correct because they are both infinitive phrases.

 

 

Prepositional Phrases

He climbed the rock, up the wall, and onto the roof. (WRONG)

He climbed over the rock, up the wall, and onto the roof. (CORRECT)

The first sentence is not parallel since the first word, the rock, does not have a preposition, but the next two words in the list have. It can be corrected by placing the correct preposition, over, before climbed.

 

Now practice what you have learned in this parallel structure quiz.

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Parallel Structure Exercises

1.The scenery was spectacular, exciting, and looked beautiful.

Correct
Incorrect

2. They studied quickly, quietly, and carefully.

Correct
Incorrect

3. To get the score you want in IELTS quickly you must both learn fast and work hard.

Correct
Incorrect

4. I like neither to wash up dishes nor mopping the floor.

Correct
Incorrect

5. She walked out of the changing rooms, climbed onto the diving board, and into the swimming pool.

Correct
Incorrect

6. He cleaned under the sink and behind the cooker.

Correct
Incorrect

7. I'll return in June, July or in August.

Correct
Incorrect

8. I usually spend my evenings watching TV and surfing the internet.

Correct
Incorrect

9. The manager did not like one of his employees because he always arrived late for work, made mistakes in his duties, completed projects carelessly, and his motivation was low.

Correct
Incorrect

10. It was both a long meeting and very boring.

Correct
Incorrect

11. You must either arrive on time or not come at all.

Correct
Incorrect

12. For him, success is defined not by wealth but by how happy you are.

Correct
Incorrect

13. The salad was fresh, crisp, and tasted delicious.

Correct
Incorrect

14. He was not sure whether to move to Australia or stay in Japan.

Correct
Incorrect

15. The quarter finals involves the English, the Spanish, French, and Germans.

Correct
Incorrect

Score =
Correct answers:

Click the link below to see a full text of the parallel structure exercise answers.

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Return from Parallel Structure to IELTS Grammar

 

 

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Other Grammar Lessons:

Sentence clauses

Sentence structure

Complex sentences

Adverbial Clauses

Relative Clauses

Noun Clauses

Modal verbs

Subject Verb Agreement

Gerunds

Infinitives

Gerund or Infinitive?

Parallel Structure

Passive Voice

 

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