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2 Tutorials that teach Parallelism
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Author: Martina Shabram

In this lesson, students will learn about the concept of parallelism in sentence construction.

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Source: [image of building blocks, public domain,]

Video Transcription

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram, and I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts, so let's get started.

What are we looking at in this lesson? Well, today, we're going to be learning about parallel construction in a sentence. We'll learn what parallelism is and why it's important, and then we'll learn how to spot parallelism and correct errors. So here we go.

When we're talking about writing, it's useful to imagine sentences as being constructed or made up of building blocks. These blocks can be put together strongly or weakly, and that construction will influence how clear a sentence is. So let's think, then, about parallel construction in a sentence. All the words and phrases inside it need to be structured so that they are parallel. And this is a strong way of building a sentence.

Well, what does that mean? Parallelism is the use of repeating grammatical structures to emphasize similarities between ideas. For example, notice how in that list of things I like to, each of the verbs is in its infinitive form-- i.e. it begins with the word to.

Now, what if I change the list like this? Here, singing has been conjugated to the present tense, but to dance and to swim haven't been. So though the meaning hasn't necessarily changed fundamentally, the sentence is much harder to understand, and overall, this construction is weak. Thus, lack of parallelism is not just grammatically incorrect, it's also confusing for the reader. Especially with lists of verbs, we need to be careful to match tense and number.

So let's look at some sentences. In this sentence, what's parallel? The verbs reads and plays. Notice that they both match tense, so this list of two makes perfect sense. Now, what about this sentence? Here, we have parallel adjectives, not verbs. And in this list of three qualities about the kitchen, each description matches the other's. So again, this is a clear sentence.

All right. Now, what about this sentence? What's different here? Each of these things that Phil's family hates to do would make sense as written if they were on their own instead of in this list. Everybody in Phil's family hates to read, and everybody in Phil's family hates playing cards. Each separately are correct. So why isn't this sentence correct? Well, because the two items aren't parallel. To read is in the infinitive tense, but playing cards is in the present tense. So let's fix this.

Now, what about this one? Here, we again have a list of three adjectives. So what's wrong this time? Well, this list starts off well-- cold and damp are parallel. Their structures match. But then what happens? Suddenly, the way the list is put together changes, and the third item is it was uncomfortable. So that's where the sentence stops being parallel. But we can fix this, too.

So now it's your turn. Here is a sentence that is missing its parallel structure. Can you spot which words and phrases are not parallel? Right. So let's fix this together. All we have to do is make this spot match the rest.

So we can just pop it in another in, and we'll be parallel. All right. Now, what is wrong with this sentence? OK. This one is a little harder, because this pair seems to match, and this pair-- well, that also matches. But the two sets, they don't match each other. So the sentence is not parallel. Let's change it this way.

OK. What did we cover in this lesson? Well, we learned about what parallel structure is in a sentence and how non-parallel sentences are both grammatically incorrect and confusing. And then we practiced fixing errors so that our sentences are parallel.

Well, students, I hope you have as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Notes on "Parallelism"


(00:00 – 00:09) Introduction

(00:10 – 00:28) What are we going to learn today

(00:29 – 01:54) Parallel Structure

(01:55 – 03:35) Spotting Parallelism

(03:36 – 04:22) Fixing Errors in Parallel Construction

(04:23 – 04:46) Recap and Goodbye

Terms to Know

The use of repeating grammatical structures to emphasize similarities between ideas.