When you list two or more things, you need to use the same structure. Let’s start with an example:
- I like soccer, sushi, and books.
This sentence is fine because everything in the list is a noun. Now, let’s see a parallel structure mistake:
- I like swimming, dancing, and to sing.
This is a parallel structure mistake. It has two items that are gerunds (swimming, dancing) and one item that is an infinitive (to sing). This list is not parallel, making it an error.
Part of Speech
Use the same part of speech for all items in the list. Here is a mistake:
- I was happy, excited, and had fun.
The first two items are adjectives, the third item is a noun. This is a parallel structure mistake.
Use the same form of the verb in your list. The most common example is with gerunds and infinitives. Here is the mistake:
- I like running, to dance, and reading.
To dance is an infinitive, while the other two are gerunds.
Make sure you use the same tense for all verbs in a list. Take a look at this mistake:
- She watched television, finished her homework, and has cleaned the kitchen.
The last item in this list is in the present perfect verb tense, while the other two are in the simple past.
Prepositions and Auxiliary Verbs
Watch out for those little words that can give your lists parallel structure problems. Take a look at this mistake:
- I want to eat, rest, and to clean the house.
If you want to use “to”, you need to use it with all the items in the list:
- I want to eat, to rest, and to clean the house.
Or, you can choose to use it only at the beginning of the list:
- I want to eat, rest, and clean the house.
If you use the tips above, you will be writing with parallel structure. People will be able to follow your ideas and
understand your lists.
Are you ready to practice parallel structure? Try these tests: