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Lesson 27: Parallel Construction (Part 1)

Parallel construction is the idea that when you list a number things or actions, they should all "line up" neatly. In technical terms, we say that similar expressions should be expressed with similar grammatical constructions.

Here are a few examples to illustrate this point:

 
Not Parallel Parallel

He is a tall man and smart and handsome.

  • a tall man = noun
  • smart = adjective
  • handsome = adjective

The mix of nouns and adjectives in this sentence makes it unpleasant to read.

He is tall, smart, and handsome.

In this sentence, the words tall, smart, and handsome are all adjectives. The parallel structure of these words makes the sentence a pleasure to read.

Ellen likes hiking, swimming, and to bicycle.

  • hiking = gerund
  • swimming = gerund
  • to bicyle = infinitive

The mix of gerunds and infinitives makes this sentence unpleasant to read.

Ellen likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling.

Or,

Ellen likes to hike, to swim, and to bicylce.

Changing the listed items so that they are all gerunds (or all infinitives) makes the sentence more pleasing to the ear.

He is a liar, a cheat, and stinky. He is a liar, a cheat, and a skunk.
 

 

These are fairly basic examples, but the the principle of parallel construction applies to all sorts of grammatical forms, including phrases and clauses. By paying attention to this principle, you can become a better writer.

There are two places where you need to worry about parallel construction: in your introduction and then again in your conclusion. Let's tackle your introduction first.

Parallell Construction in Your Introduction

If you followed the formula in lesson ___, the third sentence of your introduction consists of three clauses, each clause offering the reader a reason why your country is (or isn't) a wonderful place. Here is a simple example:

 
The food is delicious; the people are friendly, and the prices are cheap.
 

 

Perhaps you noticed that all three clauses are equative clauses. The result of this parallell construction is that the sentence is pleasing to the ear.

The problem is that some students don't pay enough attention to the structure of their clauses, and so they end up with awkward sentences like these in the left-hand column.

 

 
Not Parallel Better

The people are friendly; the food is delicious, and you can see a lot of beautiful scenery.

The people are friendly; the food is delicious, and the scenery is beautiful.

 

The cities are crowded; there is a lot of pollution, and people will try to scam you.

The cities are crowded; the rivers are polluted, and many Filipinos are dishonest.
   
   
   
 

 

Today your job is to make sure that the third sentence of your introduction is in parallel form. The easiest way to do this is to force it into one of the following molds:

  1. A series of equative clauses. (Each clause follows the pattern "subject = complement). Substitute your own words into the underlined positions.
 
The people are friendly; the food is delicious, and the scenery is beautiful.
 

 

  1. A series of "dummy subject" clauses. (Each clause follows the pattern "There are [noun]" or "There are [adjective / noun]."
 

There are top-rated ski resorts; there are world-famous restaurtants, and there are magnificent cathedrals.

 

 

  1. A series of transitive clauses. (Each clause follows the pattern "You can [verb / object]."
 

You can see the Great Wall; you can visit Beijing, and you can eat authentic Chinese cuisine.

 

 

Putting your three main reasons in parallel construction is not always easy, but it's definitely worth the effort. Ask the teacher if you need help.

Lesson Steps

 
1.

Take a look at the third sentence of your introduction. Are your three reasons in parallel construction?

2.

Does the third sentence of your introduction consist of a mix of clause patterns?

  • Fix it. Your reasons should be listed in parallel form.
3.

Congratulations! You're done with this lesson.