Grammar of Parallel Constructions

Well, it seems we touched the topic of grammar some considerable time back. So, for today’s post, I have come up with grammar post on parallelism, which you will find interesting. Several authors seem to make mistakes on parallel constructions (in which conjunctions like both…and, as well as, either…or, etc., are employed). We will see how to write such sentences correctly.

Parallel construction or parallelism is used to combine two or more ideas or attributes in a single sentence using such conjunctions as mentioned above.
Example:

Joe helped me prepare the report as well as the tea.
Kim is both a great student and an athlete.
Robert goes by the name of Bob in the city and Baron in the village.


In all three sentences, two different attributes are connected in parallel to the subject using three conjunctions (as well as, both and, and and).

All the attributes in the parallel form are to be of the same grammatical type, and they should have similar construction and tense.

For instance:


Joy likes jokes as well as to read. (Here, ‘likes jokes’ and ‘to read’ are connected with as well as. But both of them don’t agree with each other, obviously.)
Corrected:

Joy likes jokes as well as reading.

Other examples:

The French, Chinese and the British got it all wrong.
The French, the Chinese, and the British got it all wrong.

Tom likes books, movies, and he enjoys swimming.
Tom likes books, movies, and swimming.

Martha went to the school, nursery, and to park.
Martha went to school, nursery, and park.

Either you should get here early, or he.
Either you or he should arrive early.

Not only he was a coward, but also incapable.
He was not only a coward, but also incapable.

The best way you can analyze these sentences and find errors is by breaking them down into one-attribute forms.
For instance:

Jim had fractures on his thigh, foot, and on his cheek.

Break down into:
Jim had fractures on his thigh.
Jim had fractures on his foot.
Jim had fractures on his on his cheek.
(double 'on his').

Correct: Jim had fractures on his thigh, foot, and cheek.

Not only he was a coward, but also incapable.

Broken:
He was a coward.
Incapable.
(Sentence fragment, since ‘he was’ doesn’t belong to this part).

However, certain other sentences may not be easy to analyze this way.
Example:
Joy likes jokes as well as to read.
Broken:
Joy likes jokes.
Joy likes to read.

Both these sentences are correct. In such sentences, you can spot errors only by analyzing the forms of the attributes, after removing all common elements. Here, ‘jokes’ and ‘to read’ don’t obviously agree with each other, and hence the sentence is wrong. It should be rewritten as:

Joy likes jokes as well as reading.

This way, you can easily spot errors in parallelism. Avoiding mistakes in parallelism is very easy, though many writers continue to make mistakes. Errors in parallelism can make your writing look silly and incomprehensible.

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Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

1 Opinions:

  1. Time and again I have found useful insights on grammar, vocabulary and language. Avoiding Parallel constructions is very important indeed and with examples shared by you I don't think there can be a room for error anymore atleast in this aspect.

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