Parallel Construction: Advanced
By Chris Cherry
In a previous handout, I went over the basics of parallel construction, the device you use to avoid repetition by listing a series of actions or ideas in a single sentence. Basic parallel construction looks like this:
Today, Andrew is shopping for lenses, getting a haircut, and buying a shake.
This is a simple enough series of actions. However, parallel structure can be more complex. Look at the following sentence:
In today’s meeting, we will both be talking about and learning how to carve wood door frames.
Notice that both talking about and learning how aren’t singular verbs, but verb phrases. In parallel structure, the grammatical form of each of the words or phrases in the series must always be consistent. For an example of how this can trip you up, consider the following incorrect sentence:
His mother was both tired and disappointed with Andy’s behavior.
In this case, tired and disappointed with are not consistent, because tired doesn’t have a preposition while disappointed with does.
The correct version of this sentence would be:
His mother was both tired of and disappointed with Andy’s behavior.
So far, all of these examples have used and to link the words or phrases, but this is not always the case. Either and neither are also words that often signal parallel construction. A correct example of this looks like this:
After class, I usually either get lunch or go back home.
In this case, the two phrases following either are consistent grammatically. Again, keeping the phrases consistent is crucial. Here is a case when they aren’t consistent:
The worksheet the teacher gave was neither difficult nor a time-consuming assignment
In this case, difficult and a time-consuming assignment are inconsistent grammatically. Difficult is an adjective while a time consuming assignment is a noun phrase. The correct sentence looks like this:
The worksheet the teacher gave was neither difficult nor time-consuming.