Grammar

Parallelism 1


What is parallelism?

CAT Sentence Correction: Comparison and Parallelism


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Parallelism, also called parallel structure or parallel construction is used to improve clarity and readability and prevents awkwardness. In grammar, “parallelism” is the balance between two or more similar words, phrases or clauses.

Errors in parallel structure are one of the most frequently tested errors in Sentence Correction problems that we get on most entrance examinations. To spot such mistakes, one should make sure that items in a list, parts of a comparison, and elements of correlative expressions have identical grammatical forms and be logically similar to one another. In this article we will review the most frequently tested rules of parallelism. Parallelism is one of the CAT’s favorite devices on the Sentence Correction questions. And that’s because, as a concept, parallelism is rather dynamic. Remember, parallelism is never about “right and wrong” but about “good and better”. As a rhetorical device “parallelism” focuses more on form than on anything else. It’s the improvement of a sentence, dependant on not only grammar but also logic.

 An easier way to understand the concept is to assume that X&Y are two phrases or clauses for which we must affect parallelism. It is not sufficient that individually both X and Y are grammatically correct.  In order to render the parallelism correct, X and Y must be equivalent in their grammatical forms and must serve the same logical role in the sentence.  There’s no simple formula for parallelism. One must maintain the integrity of both logic and meaning of the sentence. Having said that, I’d like to point out the most frequent traps that are laid by the examiners to ambush aspirants are designed primarily around five or six different facets of parallelism.




 

Rules of parallelism

  1. Using Articles with Parallelism 

Parallelism necessitates  that an article (a, an, or the) or a preposition applying to all things on a list appear either before only the first item or be repeated ahead of each thing. Take a look at a couple of examples:

Nonparallel: You can use a pen, a pencil, brush, or bit of charcoal to draw the picture.

Parallel: You can use a pen, a pencil, a brush, or a bit of charcoal to draw the picture.

OR

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Parallel: You can use a (pen, pencil, brush, or bit of charcoal)l to draw the picture.

Nonparallel: I went to classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and on Saturday.

Parallel: : I went to classes on Tuesday, on Wednesday, and on Saturday.

OR

Parallel: : I went to classes on (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.)

It’s this facet that has given rise to the well known axiom “when it comes to sentence correction, shorter is USUALLY better




 

  1. Parallelism is used to balance nouns with nouns, prepositional phrases with prepositional phrases, participles with participles, infinitives with infinitives, clauses with clauses.

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Nouns and parallelism

Examples:

I like cakes(noun) and ice cream(noun). Yeah, who doesn’t? But you get the point!

Of note is the proposition that noun/gerund phrases may substitute nouns when we wish to effect parallelism

For example- "I like rain (noun) and sprinting through foliage (gerund phrase)." (Yeah! I’m Tarzan)

Or

She likes dancing and cooking breakfast for her husband

This one’s a tad problematic because it could mean-

She likes( dancing for her husband )and (cooking breakfast for her husband)

Definitely ambiguous

If “she “does like to only cook breakfast for her husband and not necessarily be his personal “nautch girl” but she does enjoy dancing as a hobby or an exercise, we need to phrase it differently

She likes cooking breakfast for her husband and dancing.

And thusly the clouds depart , leaving behind a brilliant sunshine of clarity !






 

Prepositions and parallelism

"...and that government of the people(preposition phrase), by the people(preposition phrase)…for the people(preposition phrase),, shall not perish from the earth." — Abraham LincolnGettysburg Address

President Lincoln, apparently, was well versed in the nuances of parallelism. He realized that because the prepositions used differed with each phrase he needed to repeat the prepositions as well as the articles, as must you.

Infinitives and parallelism

Infinitives or “to” + base form of verb (example: To cook, to run and so on)

 

I like to cook(infinitive) , to jog(infinitive)  and to read books(infinitive)

 

        OR

(I like to) cook, jog and read books.

This is the easiest way to structure parallel sentences. Bring whatever is common to left and whatever is left goes to right. Try to find similar arrangements within given options to a sentence correction question.

Parallelism and participles:

Words that end in “-ing” are not necessarily parts of verb phrases…in fact, if those “-ing” words are unaccompanied by helping verbs they are present participles and  as such, can function as noun modifiers (adjectives). 

Examples: the flying elephant, the running horse, the talking parrot.

Thus, we can create long modifying phrases for nouns called “participial phrases.”

And such participle phrases must be also parallel. Consider this, for example-

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John, beginning to tire of  the his parent’s persistence  because they refused to let him follow his heart and as he didn’t want to upset them further, a decent soul that he was, decided to shut up and distance himself from the ongoing conversation.

Now, this may seem like a correct rendition but it is NOT

John, beginning to tire of  the his parent’s persistence(participle phrase, since it modifies John)  because they refused to let him follow his heart and(parallelism Indicator) as he didn’t want to upset them further(not parallel), a decent soul that he was, decided to shut up and(parallelism Indicator) distanced himself from the ongoing conversation.

Some may try to correct it by writing-

John, beginning to tire of  the his parent’s persistence  because they refused to let him follow his heart and not wanting(EEK!!! {Wanting=lacking (adj) Being a stative verb “want” does not take the “ing” form.) upset them further, a decent soul that he was, decided to shut up and distanced himself from the ongoing conversation.

And they would be wrong

Once one learns to simplify these sentences, life becomes so much easier. To a trained eye the sentence above, stripped of its frippery, looks like the one below-

John, (beginning to tire of  the his parent’s persistence)  [because they refused to let him follow his heart] and as he didn’t want to upset them further(problem. Not parallel), decent souls that he was, decided to shut up and distanced (infinitive ,NOT parallel) himself from the ongoing conversation.

 

And, finally  a better way to correct it would be-

Expanded form- John, beginning to tire of  his parent’s persistence  because they refused to let him follow his heart and unwilling  to upset them further, a decent soul that he was, decided to (shut up) and to(distance)  himself from the ongoing conversation.

Contracted form- - John,( beginning to tire of  his parent’s persistence  because they refused to let him follow his heart) and (unwilling  to upset them further), a decent soul that he was, decided to (shut up) and distance)  himself from the ongoing conversation.

 

Now, do understand that the same principle applies to past participle phrases. Past participles take on usually the following forms

-D,- Ed, -N,-EN

Past participles are used for all perfect tense forms of a verb and occur in passive voice constructions in English.

For regular verbs, we generally add “ED” to form its past participle. Unfortunately for irregular verbs there are no rules and it is just a matter of practice. But, more importantly, past participles  often form adjectives or adjective phrases.

The following are examples of past participles in action-

The tired(adj.) man sat down with a sigh.

Our house was broken into last night (passive voice)

Parallelism , when it takes effect in constructions using past participles, must be effected just as we effect it when we use present participle phrases.

Consider –

The required documents must be submitted  by the patient who must tender also all the medical records that are pertinent.

The sentence above may be rewritten correctly as-

The patient must submit(since “tender” and “submit” mean the same thing no need to repeat the latter) the required documents and (parallelism indicator) pertinent medical records.

There! You are done!


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Remember-

Parallelism is used with elements joined by coordinating conjunctions
The three coordinating conjunctions that, join parallel phrases and clauses are “and“, “but“, and “or“. 

My father likes hunting and to read.false
My father likes hunting and readingtrue

“And” can join two elements (“X and Y”) or three (“X, Y, and Z”), in which case the format is always [first term][comma][second term][comma] “and” [third term].

Or

“And” can join two elements (“X and Y”) or three (“X, Y and Z”), in which case the format is always [first term][comma][second term][no comma] “and” [third term].

I painted that wall, the windowsills, and the table by the window. true

Or

I painted that wall, the windowsills and the table by the window. true

Anytime you see the word “and” on the Sentence Correction, some kind of parallelism is in play. Three sets of words that, like coordinating conjunctions, can by themselves set two elements in parallel are “as well as” “along with” and “rather than.”

But BE CAREFUL with “whether or not”…Generally “whether” alone suffices, especially if when we have only two alternatives. However, if the sentence implies ‘regardless of whether’ then one must use the “whether or not” construction.  Look at it this way, whether one uses the "or not" construction or not depends on whether you are providing a clear alternative to your reader or not. If there is no clear alternative, don't add the "or not." 

 

Often “or not” is redundant after “whether”, but not always. The phrase may ordinarily be omitted in these cases:

• When the whether clause is the object of a verb: I wonder whether the car can be repaired. (The clause is the object of wonder.)

• When the clause is the object of a preposition: I will base my decision to sell the car on whether it can be cost effectively repaired. (The clause is the object of on.)

• When the clause is the subject of the sentence: (Whether the car will be ready) depends on the mechanic.(The clause is the subject of depends.)

But when a “whether clause” modifies a verb,” or not” is needed: The mechanic will charge us whether he is able to repair it or not. (The clause modifies charge.)

 

Ravi didn’t know whether to drive to the wedding or to take a cabtrue

But

Ravi wondered whether he should go the wedding or not false

Ravi wanted to drive to the wedding whether or not his dad permits.true

Whether one chooses to live a materialistic existence is entirely a matter of personal choice.true


 

  1. Parallelism is used with elements in lists or in a series. Any sentence that lists several things must do so in a parallel manner. Consider the following example:

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This game can be played individually, in pairs, or can be played in groups of four. false
This game can be played individually, in pairs, or in groups of four.true

Whenever you encounter a sentence that lists several items, pay particular attention to articles and prepositions.CAT most frequently violates parallelism by omitting these parts of speech or introducing them where they are not needed.

NOTE: Do remember that an article or a preposition that applies to all items on the list must either be repeated without fail before each or only before the first item!

  1. Parallelism is used with elements being compared. 

Comparison is another type of structure whose elements must be parallel. Whenever one comes across clues such as more/less than, as many/much as, in contrast with,like, unlike,or in comparison to,one should check whether the comparison is expressed in parallel terms both grammatically and meaning-wise. To be grammatically and logically parallel, comparisons must be complete and unambiguous.

They aremore interested in watching TV  thanto read books .false
They are more interested in watching TV  than reading  books. true

  1. Parallelism is used with elements joined by a linking verb or a form of be
    TolearnEnglish is opening the doors to the world. false
    To learnEnglishis to open the doors to the world. true


 

  1. Correlative expressions

Generally, two parallel elements will be joined either by a single coordinating conjunction or a pair of correlative conjunctions

Sections of such phrases as “not only X but also Y”, “either X or Y”, “neither X nor Y” and “both X and Y”, should have the same grammatical structures. Breaches of this rule are generally fixed by rearranging the sentence.So , if one gets a sentence correction question featuring any of the correlative conjunctions mentioned above the two possible error types that may confront them are

  1. Parallelism errors

  2. Subject verb agreement errors

The most commonly applied correlativeconjunctions on the CAT and other similar exams are

not only X but also Y

not X but Y

bothX and Y

either X or Y

neither X nor Y

Be especially careful to not mix their parts (“not … but also”, or “not only …. but” and neither…or) — these are common CAT SC mistake patterns. Recognize the markers in bold to spot parallelism.

 

The officer not only wants his troopsto maintain disciplinebut to be polite. false
The officer wants his troops not only to maintain discipline but alsoto be polite.true

 


 

Logic and false parallelism

A more complicated mistake patterns on the CAT Sentence Correction is what is called false parallelism,

Many a time, two elements that superficially, grammatically, seem to match are paired, but these elements logically play very different roles.  While, during examinations we expect to deal with complex sentences which tax our brains ,it’s not difficult to trip someone up on parallel structure using even the simplest of sentences, such as-

Neetu likes playing badminton (noun), football(noun) and to play the table(infinitive). false

Seems easy enough to fix,  right?

We may try to effect parallelism by writing-

Neetu likes playing badminton, football and the tabla. false

Now , this may seem grammatically correct at first sight but it’s logically problematic, because playing a musical instrument , the tabla, is not the same as playing a sport. While “playing the tabla” talks about the physical aspect of generating music using a musical instrument, “playing a sport, such as football and badminton” indicates participation in the sport indicated.  This is a fine example of false parallelism which we will discuss later. The point is, while some mavens of the English language may see nothing wrong with the example above and deem it correct, most experts would disagree. Hence, It’d be better to say that-

Neetu likes badminton, (Noun), football(Noun) and the tabla(Noun). false

But, obviously this presents another challenge because now we have removed an essential part from the sentence i.e “playing”. Therefore, in direct contradiction to what I have said before about how “shorter is better” , let me point out that “shorter is better” only if it makes sense. And sometimes to make sense we may have to actually drag a sentence out

Neetu likes playing  badminton, (Noun), football(Noun) and giving tabla recitals(Noun).




 

Similarly-

Yesterday, I cooked dinner with my wife,with a little wine and with a profound sense of pride.

Superficially, one might think these are in parallel — three correctly constructed prepositional phrases, each beginning with the word “with.”  Grammatically, utterly nothing is wrong with this sentence. Logically, however, the sentence is a disaster.  This sentence strings together parallelly, three completely different meanings of a “with” prepositional phrase:

  1. materials: “with alittle wine”

  2. accompaniment: “with my wife“

  3. manner: “with a profound sense of pride”

 


Make the following sentences syntactically and logically parallel where required-

Q1. The manager was not satisfied with the report because it was biased, superficial, and the writing was poor.

Q2. For his birthday he received the following gifts; a bat, hat, a towel, a trowel, glove and a dove, a flint, some lint but not flint.

Q3. Either you are required to submit the paper on time or ask your professor for an extension.

Q4. Attending a private college is significantly more expensive than a state school.

Q5. The government responds to inflation by raising the prime lending rate, limiting the money supply, and plans to introduce cost-of-living adjustments for folks on fixed income.

Q6. The Kight Riders dropped seven catches in the first inning of today’s game, and,as yet, are unable to meet the required run rate.

Q7. We spent the hour in the waiting room reading old magazines, as we at stale cookies from the vending machine, as we wiggled on the hard plastic chairs.

Q8. Practitioners of many ancient world religions, like their modern day counterparts, believed human life to be a term for the preparation of the soul for another form of existence in the after life rather than seeing existence as the random but brief result of biological procreation.  

 

These are a few excellent questions that I fished out of the internet. Using what you have learnt this far, try to pick the correct options-

1)

(A) Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) is remembered in that he led the independence revolutions in several South American counties, like Venezuela and Bolivia, and for instilling the ideals of democracy across the continent.
(B) Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) is remembered to have led the independence revolutions in several South American counties, including Venezuela and Bolivia, and having instilled the ideals of democracy across the continent.
(C) Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) is remembered for leading the independence revolutions in several South American counties, like Venezuela and Bolivia, and to have instilled the ideals of democracy across the continent.
(D) Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) is remembered for leading the independence revolutions in several South American counties, such as Venezuela and Bolivia, and for instilling the ideals of democracy across the continent.

 

2)

(A) ) Marcus Junius Brutus (85 – 42 BCE) became friends with Julius Caesar, but he participated in the conspiracy that assassinated Caesar, and in subsequent centuries rose and fell according to the tides of various interpretations — as a treacherous villain in Dante and noble hero in Shakespeare.


(B) ) Marcus Junius Brutus (85 – 42 BCE) became friends with Julius Caesar, but he participated in the conspiracy that assassinated Caesar, and in subsequent centuries rising and falling according to the tides of various interpretations — as a treacherous villain in Dante and noble hero in Shakespeare.


(C) ) Marcus Junius Brutus (85 – 42 BCE) became friends with Julius Caesar, but participated in the conspiracy that assassinated Caesar, and in subsequent centuries his reputation rose and fell according to the tides of various interpretations — as a treacherous villain in Dante and noble hero in Shakespeare.


(D) ) Marcus Junius Brutus (85 – 42 BCE) became friends with Julius Caesar, but participated in the conspiracy that assassinated Caesar, and in subsequent centuries his reputation rising and falling according to the tides of

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