Parallelism in a sentence requires that similar ideas be presented in similar form and that elements that are similar in function appear in similar grammatical form. Parallelism in an important principle of both grammar and style. Parallelism creates balance and emphasis. It can , therefore, be used to create desired effects.


3. The Structure of Parallelism
3.1Parallel Markers
3.2Parallel Elements
4.Idioms with Built-In Parallel Structure
5.Superficial Parallelism vs. Actual Parallelism
6.Common Mistakes
8.Extra Information


In grammar, parallelism is a balance of two or more similar words, phrases, or clauses. The application of parallelism in sentence construction can sometimes improve writing style clearness and readability. It can also strengthen sequences described. Parallelism may also be known as parallel structure or parallel construction. In English, parallelism of the predicate provides for one of the few structural situations in which the subject for each verb does not need restatement. Parallelism is often achieved in conjunction with other stylistic principles, such as antithesis, anaphora, asyndeton, climax, epistrothe, and symploce.
According to the principle of parallelism, comparable sentence parts must be structurally and logically similar.(1)


"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."-- John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address(2)
"We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We've seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers -- in English, Hebrew, and Arabic."—George W. Bush, 9-20-01 Address to the Nation on Terrorism(3)
"For the Ireland of 1963, one of the youngest of nations and the oldest of civilizations, had discovered that the achievement of nationhood is not an end but a beginning. In the years since independence, you have undergone a new and peaceful revolution, an economic and industrial revolution, transforming the face of this land while still holding to the old spiritual and cultural values. You have modernized your economy, harnessed your rivers, diversified your industry, liberalized your trade, electrified your farms, accelerated your rate of growth, and improved the living standards of your people."-- John F. Kennedy, Address to the Irish Parliament.(4)

The Structure of Parallelism

Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause level. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or."(5)
Parallel Markers
How do we know that parts of a sentence need to be parallel to each other? Often, we know by spotting Parallel Markers—words that link or contrast items and that force thouse items to be parallel. Examples of parallel markers include the following:


The most important parallel markers are the three common conjunctions: and, but, and or. Of these, and is the most common. However, do not limit yourself to these markers. Any construction that expresses two or more tings in the same way requires parallelism.(6)
Parallel Elements
Almost anything in a sentence can be made parallel to a similar Parallel Element.
Some verbs or forms derived from verbs have more than one word: was opening, can lose, to increase.We can often split apart these expressions, so that the first word or words count across all of the elements.
The division was opening offices, hiring staff and investing in equipment.
The railroad can either lose more money or solve its problems.
They wanted to increase awareness, spark interest, and motivate purchases.

Parallel clauses should start with the same word.

Wrong: I want to retire to a place where I can relax and that has low taxes.
Right: I want to retire to a place where I can relax and where the taxes are low.

Note that in the example above, the principle of concision yields to the mandate of parallelism. Likewise, do not over-shorten any element. Be sure that each element is complete.
Wrong: Ralph likes both those who are popular and who are not.
Right: Ralph likes both those who are popular and those who are not. (7)

Idioms with Built-In Parallel Structure

Certain idioms demand parallelism as a result of their structure. The most important idioms demanding parallelism, such as both X and Y, have already been described. The chart below lists additional idiomatic structures that require parallelism.

Superficial Parallelism vs. Actual Parallelism

You always must figure out which grammatical structures are logically parallel before making them structurally parallel. lie particularly careful with verbs and verbal forms.
Sal applied himself in his new job, arriving early every day, skipping lunch regularly, AND leaving late every night.
In the sentence above, the –Ing partciple phrases arriving early every day, skipping lunch reg­ularly, and leaving late every night are parallel. The main clause,applied himself in his new
job, is nor parallel to these participle phrases. This is CORRECT. The main verb is applied, and the -lng phrases provide additional information about how Sal applied himself. It would distort the meaning to change the sentence this superficially parallel version:
Wrong: Sal applied himself in his new job, arrived early every day, skipped lunch regularly, AND left late every night.
The version gives all the activities equal emphasis, instead of making the last three activities subordinate to the main activity (applied himself in his new job).

Do not assume that all verbs and verbal forms in a sentence must be parallel.(9)

Common Mistakes

Unskillful writers often violate this principle, from a mistaken belief that they should constantly vary the form of their expressions. It is true that in repeating a statement in order to emphasize it writers may have needed to vary its form. But apart from this, writers should follow carefully the principle of parallel construction.

Faulty Parallelism
Corrected Version
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method, while now the laboratory method is employed.
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method; now it is taught by the laboratory method.

The left-hand version gives the impression that the writer is undecided or timid; he seems unable or afraid to choose one form of expression and hold to it. The right-hand version shows that the writer has at least made his choice and abided by it.
By this principle, an article or a preposition applying to all the members of a series must either be used only before the first term or else be repeated before each term.

Faulty Parallelism
Corrected Version
The French, the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese
The French, the Italians, the Spanish, and the Portuguese
In spring, summer, or in winter
In spring, summer, or winter (In spring, in summer, or in winter)

Correlative expressions (both, and; not, but; not only, but also; either, or; first, second, third; and the like) should be followed by the same grammatical construction. Many violations of this rule can be corrected by rearranging the sentence.
Faulty Parallelism
Corrected Version
It was both a long ceremony and very tedious.
The ceremony was both long and tedious.
A time not for words, but action
A time not for words, but for action
Either you must grant his request or incur his ill will.
You must either grant his request or incur his ill will.
My objections are, first, the injustice of the measure; second, that it is unconstitutional.
My objections are, first, that the measure is unjust; second, that it is unconstitutional.

When making comparisons, the things you compare should be couched in parallel structures whenever that is possible and appropriate.
Faulty Parallelism
Corrected Version
My income is smaller than my wife.
My income is smaller than my wife's.


(6)Andrew Yang. (2010). Manhattan GMAT: Sentence Correction. NY: Manhattan GMAT.
(7) Bertie E. Fearing and W. Keats Sparrow(1989). Technical Writing: Theory and Practice. NY: The Modern Language Association of America.(8)Trimmer and McCrimmon(1988). Writing with a Purpose. Boston,MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.(9)

External Links

(1) It introduces parallelism, compares the right sentences with the wrong ones, and provides some exercises for English-learners.(2) It provides different patterns of parallelism sentences, and analyses them in separate parts.(3) It is created by the evergreen writing center. It lists coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, phrases in comparison and so on, which helps people understand parallelism thoroughly.