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Parallel Sentence Examples

What do these three things have in common?

  • Railroad tracks
  • Opposing sides of a door frame
  • These two lines: \ \

They are all “parallel.” That means they are two lines that continuously have the same distance between them and never intersect. In a way, you could say that they are “equal.” The same is true for what is known as a parallel sentence.

Any time you are creating a list in writing, you will want to use a parallel sentence structure. This means that each of the items on the list is equal in the grammar tenses that you use. These lists can be made up of words, phrases, or even clauses. Most of the time, you will be using a coordinating conjunction to make your list. However, this rule applies to lists placed after a colon as well.

I’ve found one of the best ways to explain the parallel sentence is to give right and wrong examples. So here are a few to help you along.

Examples of Parallel Words

Example 1
The rockstar wants to warm up, playing guitar, and singing. (Wrong!)

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? That because the words in the list don’t follow the same grammatical pattern.

The rockstar wants to warm up, to play guitar, and to sing. (Right!)

You could also use:
The rockstar wants to warm up, play guitar, and sing.

Example 2
Listen to music, taking pictures, and rocking out all night is all the rock fans want to do. (Wrong!)

Listen to music, take pictures, and rock out all night is all the rock fans want to do. (Right!)

Examples of Parallel Phrases and Clauses

Example 1
The rockstar thought he would warm up his vocal cords, played his guitar for screaming fans, and trash his hotel room. (Wrong! And one should never trash a hotel room.)

The rockstar thought he would warm up his vocal cords, play his guitar for screaming fans, and trash his hotel room. (Right – at least grammatically.)

Example 2
The fans attending the concert decided to get to the concert early, partying way too much, and to sleep really late the next day. (Wrong. Getting more obvious?!)

The fans attending the concert decided to get to the concert early, party way too much, and sleep really late the next day. (Right!)

Examples of Parallel Phrases in Lists After a Colon

Example 1
The damages the rockstar caused at the hotel room were as follows: burned bed, painted walls, and he left dirty towels on the floor. (Wrong!)

The damages the rockstar caused at the hotel room were as follows: burned bed, painted walls, and dirty towels on the floor. (Right!)

Example 2
To attend the concert, the fans will need: earplugs, cameras, and took ibuprofen. (Wrong!)

To attend the concert, the fans will need: earplugs, cameras, and to take ibuprofen. (Right!)

Be sure to check out some of our lessons and blogs on fascinating grammar topics like ending a sentence with a preposition and the difference between who and whom.

P.S. Become a better writer. Find out more here.

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