Skip to main content

Grammar: Parallel Construction

Parallel Construction Basics

Parallel ideas must be presented in parallel grammatical form. Parallel grammatical form means that each part of a sentence uses the same grammatical structure.

Examples of Parallel Construction

Between and And

Incorrect:  We debated the difference between the weather in Minnesota in the winter and how hot it is in the summer.
 
Correct:  We debated the difference between the weather in Minnesota in the winter and the weather in Minnesota in the summer.

Both and And

Incorrect: The films were enjoyable to watch and discuss.
 
Correct: The films were enjoyable to watch and to discuss.

Neither and Nor; Either and Or

Incorrect: Neither the responses to the questionnaire nor what we asked on the survey were answered.
 
Correct: Neither the responses to the questionnaire nor the responses to the survey were answered.

Not Only and But Also

Incorrect: It was surprising not only that the house sold, but also it sold well over the asking price.
 
Correct: It was surprising not only that the house sold but also that it sold well over the asking price.

Parallel Construction in a Series

Sentences with series, or lists, require particular attention to parallel construction.

Example 1:

Incorrect: This paper will address No Child Left Behind, how to teach effectively, and instructing with multimedia aids.
 
Correct: This paper will address No Child Left Behind benchmarks, effective teaching strategies, and multimedia instructional aids.

Now, the series has parallel elements (benchmarks, strategies, and aids are all plural nouns).

 

Example 2:

Incorrect: The students were unprepared, poorly behaved, and disrupted the class.
 
Correct: The students were underprepared, poorly behaved, and disruptive.

Now, the series has parallel elements (underprepared, behaved, and disruptive are all adjectives).

 

For more help with parallel structure in a series or list, see this blog post from the APA style blog.

Common Error: Parallel Structure Video

Knowledge Check: Parallel Construction