Parallel Sentence Structure

by eslwriter on July 8, 2010

in Learn English

Balance looks good. In the summer Olympics, athletes try to balance their body on a bar, or two parallel bars or on the floor mat. People who study yoga also try to balance their bodies.

Good writing needs balance in the sentences. Look at this sentence. Does it have balance?Mary likes hiking, cooking, and to ride a bicycle.

No, it doesn’t have balance. The verbs are different. Two verbs have ING and one has an infinitive (to ride). The sentence does not read well. It does not have balance.

Parallel Structure

In English writing, can fix this balance problem with parallel structure. That means a sentence uses the same pattern when we write about many things. To write the sentence about Mary properly, we can change it like this:

  • Mary likes hiking, cooking, and riding a bicycle.
  • Mary likes to hike, cook and ride a bicycle.

In the first example, all the verbs have an ING ending. In the second sentence, all the verbs are infinitives. Both verb forms are okay; just don’t mix them together. There are many ways to make a parallel structure.

In this lesson, we will use verbs with ING and infinitives. You can practice writing sentence with parallel structure with this worksheet.

Parallel structure is an important sentence writing skill. It makes a sentence easy to read. In a later lesson, we will see how parallel structure can be used to write complex sentences that can be used as a thesis statement or the topic sentence of a paragraph.

Download the exercise worksheet here. Read the sentences and fix them. Learn to write parallel structure and you will be able to write sentences, paragraphs and essays that have balance.

Photo credit: soholife.english.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe November 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Are both of the following examples of parallel Sentence structure? If not, which one is not and what s the rationale?

“dogs and cats” — “dogs and tigers”

Thanks for your feedback.

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