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ELC - English Language Center Santa Barbara
Parallel Construction March 7th, 2019

Parallelism (or parallel construction) is the idea that parallel ideas — ideas that are equal or very similar — must also be written in parallel grammatical form. When using certain words of parallel construction, each part of the sentence that gets combined should be the same as the other.

Words commonly used in parallel construction are:

Between … and; Both … and; Neither … nor; Either … or; Not only … but also; And; But; Or; Than; As

Here’s an example of how this works:

Incorrect: John likes hiking, swimming, and to go to the beach.

Two of these words are in gerund form {-ing} so the third one should be, too. Alternatively, all of the forms should be in infinitive form {to} to match.

Correct: John likes hiking, swimming, and going to the beach. OR John likes to hike, swim, and go to the beach.

Tip: We don’t need to repeat the “to” each time. As long as the base form matches to the original “to,” only the first mention is important.

Incorrect: I would rather pay higher taxes than to get a lower salary.

This is incorrect because of the “to.” Both ideas connect originally to the word “rather” — as such, both ideas should naturally fit in that sentence form. “I would rather pay higher taxes” and “I would rather get a lower salary.” Using the comparative than ties them together.

Correct: I would rather pay higher taxes than get a lower salary.

Let’s try one more:

Incorrect: Sarah liked neither Rome nor she didn’t like Paris.

Spot the problem already? Neither … nor is a very interesting parallel form in which both ideas after neither and nor must take the same form. For example, “Rome” is a city, so nor can be followed by another city (“Paris,” “London,” etc.).

Keep practicing away at these and they’ll get easier! All you have to do is make sure A is the same as B.

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