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Coordination and Parallel Structures in English

In English, as in many other languages, coordination is frequently used to provide fluency to speech.

Syntactic coordination is the alignment of two syntactic units, two sentences, or two words through the use of conjunctions or punctuation. This generates what in English are called parallel structures.

In English, there are different ways to build parallel structures which come with some simple rules for constructing sentences harmoniously and coherently.

Conjunctions and Parallel Structures

Coordination usually occurs through the use of conjunctions. There are different types of coordinating conjunctions, based on the relationship established between the words: copulative, disjunctive, adversative, declarative, and conclusive.

Examples of English conjunctions include:

And
Nor
Or
But
So
Yet

When connecting words, verbs or phrases through coordinating conjunctions, it is important to maintain the same structure in all of the connected elements.

Examples:

Every evening we have our dinner, watch TV, and have a bath before going to bed.

NOT

Every evening we have our dinner, watch TV, and having a bath before going to bed.

I will not speak to Mark nor will I write him a letter.

NOT

I will not speak to Mark nor write.

Parallel structures are also created with correlative conjunctions.

Some examples of correlative conjunctions are:

either…or
neither…nor
not only…but also

Examples:

They didn’t agree not only about the project but also about the people to involve in it.

NOT

They didn’t agree not only about the project but also they didn’t agree about the people to involve in it.

Either he wants to swim or he doesn’t want to swim.

NOT

Either he wants to swim or doesn’t want to swim.

Verb Coordination

When verbs are coordinated in the infinitive, the same form must be maintained for all of the coordinated verbs.

  • If you choose to use a verb in infinitive with to, this form must be maintained for all of the verbs in the parallel structure.

Mario loves to swim, to ride horses, to play football, and to run.

  • If you choose to use a verb with the suffix -ing, you should maintain that suffix.

Mario loves swimming, riding horses, playing football, and running.

When you coordinate verbs, you should also pay attention to the tenses.

Examples:

He went to school and had an exam.

NOT

He went to school and has an exam.

Yesterday we cleaned the house, prepared dinner, and watched a movie.

NOT

Yesterday we cleaned the house, prepare dinner, and watched a movie.

Parallel Structures with Clauses

Attention should also be paid to coordinating clauses or phrases.

Examples:

The teacher told them that they need to improve and that they should practice the poems every day.

NOT

The teacher told them to improve and that they should practice the poems every day.

My parents said, “Get a good education and find a job.”

NOT

My parents said to get a good education and find a job.

Parallel Structures with Lists

When we have a list of words or phrases, all the elements of the list must maintain the same form.

Examples:

Don’t forget what I asked you to do: mail the letter, buy vegetables, and pay the bills.

NOT

Don’t forget what I asked you to do: mail the letter, buy vegetables, and payment of the bills.

I love dogs because they are faithful, they are intelligent, and they love playing.

NOT

I love dogs because they are faithful, they are intelligent, and because they love playing.

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