SAT Grammar: Understanding Parallelism in Sentences
In grammar, parallelism is a balance of two or more similar words, phrases or clauses. In a simpler language, when there is parallelism between two things, there are similarities between them. 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. In SAT Writing, the most basic kind of sentence may consist of a single clause. More complicated sentences may contain multiple clauses, including clauses contained within clauses.
For your SAT, you can find all the important SAT Grammar topics you need to cover here.
The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as and, or, but, nor, so, for and yet.
SAT Tip: Try to skim through your SAT sentences, pausing at conjunctions and, or, but etc. Check on each side of these words to see whether the items joined are parallel. If not, make them parallel. The important point to remember is that both forms must be the same
Example: (Incorrect) Either you must stay here or go with us.
(Correct) You must either stay here or go with us.
(Incorrect) John writes poetry and also short stories.
(Correct) John writes poetry and short stories.
(Incorrect) This bike is not only fast but also it is safe to drive.
(Correct) This bike is not only fast but also safe.
Understanding Parallelism in Words and Phrases
Rule #1 Use similar grammatical form when offering several ideas :
a) With the –ing (gerund) form of words
(Parallel) Jessica likes running, swimming and travelling.
(Not Parallel) Jessica likes running, swimming and to travel.
(Parallel) My friends and I went to Mauritius for Christmas and spent our time surfing, sunbathing, and hiking.
(Not Parallel) My friends and I went to Mauritius for Christmas and spent our time surfing, sunbathing and on hikes.
Explanation: Here there a series of “-ing” words beginning each item. Keep it that way.
SAT Tip: If you have several items in a list, put them in a column to see if they are parallel.
b) With infinitive phrases
(Parallel) Jessica likes to run, to swim, to travel. OR
(Parallel) Jessica likes to run, swim and travel.
(Not Parallel) Jessica likes to run, swimming and to travel.
Explanation: You can use “to” before all the verbs in a sentence or only before the first one.
Rule #2: A good rule of thumb when looking for parallelism is paying close attention to coordinating conjunctions such as and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet. Coordinating conjunctions are used in listing and therefore can help you spot faulty parallelism.
(Not Parallel) Debbie does not enjoy taking tests or even to attend school.
(Parallel) Debbie does not enjoy taking tests or even attending school.
Explanation: Here changing the verb form (-ing) creates parallelism in the sentence.
(Not Parallel) The soccer instructor said that he was a poor team member because he waited until the last minute to kick the ball, completed his training in a careless manner, and his motivation was low.
(Parallel) The soccer instructor said that he was a poor team member because he waited until the last minute to kick the ball, completed his training in a careless manner, and lacked motivation.
Rule #3: Look for colons. Colons usually precede items in a list.
(Not Parallel) His reason for accepting the lowest-paying job offer was simple: he always liked and wants to live in the Houston.
(Parallel) His reason for accepting the lowest-paying job offer was simple: he always wanted to live in the Houston.
SAT Tip : If something is breaking that rhythm or repetition of sound, check to see if it needs to be made parallel.
Rule #4:Parallel structure with correlative conjunctions
Errors in parallel structure often occur with correlative conjunctions: a….as ; either … or; neither … nor; both … and; not only … but also; whether … or ; the more..the more ; if..then. The grammatical structure following the second half of the correlative should mirror the grammatical structure following the first half.
(parallel: phrase with phrase) The scientists denied not only the news article but also the company’s official statement. (parallel: phrase with phrase)
Understand Subjective and Objective Personal Pronouns here.