Parallel Structures

Some sentences involve repeating the same grammatical structure to link points. Repeated grammatical forms of this kind has been labelled parallel structures.

Parallel structures enable you to organize a list of ideas so that they are coherent and easy to follow. By using parallel structures you can produce long, well-formed sentences.

There are many different types of parallel structure. Here are some examples:

Sentence I
  • Television was originally designed to educate, (to) amuse and (to) entertain the masses.
Here is the parallel structure in the sentence:
Sentence II
  • The student was accepted on to the course because he had the correct language level and (he had) the required school exam results.
Here is the parallel structure in the sentence:
Sentence III
  • The person who gave the presentation and (who) designed the website is a friend of mine.
Here is the parallel structure in the sentence:

Read the following paragraph from a lecture on the subject of new media. Observe the sentence closely and underline the parallel structures. What error has been made?

There is evidence that excessive use of new media among children can affect their performance at school, influence their behavior at home and limiting their overall attention spans.
What’s wrong: Different verb forms are used within the parallel structures. The first two verbs ‘affect’ and ‘influence’ are parallel. They are not in the singular form because they go together with ‘can’. The third verb should therefore be in the same form as ‘affect’ as it also linked with ‘can’ → ‘can limit’.
Here is the sentence with parallel structures:
The following are some more complex examples of sentences with parallel structures:
Be careful with Neither/nor!

This structure is used for expressing two connected negatives but the verbs used are not negative and both of them must be in the same form:

Remember: When a sentence contains parts that are linked to the same structure, their grammatical form must also be the same (though some words within the structure may be omitted).