gmat preparation courses
Order Page About Us FAQ Contact Us GMAT Home

    Sentence Correction
  I: Introduction
  II: Sentence Correction Tips
  III: Glossary
  IV: Three-Step Method
V: Seven Error Types  
1. Subject-Verb Agreement
2. Modifiers
3. Parallelism
a. Introduction
b. Lists of Verbs and Parallel Constructions
c. Lists of Adjectives or Adverbs
d. Comparisons Between Multiple Pronouns
e. Sample Questions
4. Pronoun Agreement
5. Verb Time Sequences
6. Comparisons
7. Idioms
  VI: Sample Questions



3. Parallelism: Introduction



A. Introduction
B. Lists of Verbs and Parallel Constructions
C. Lists of Adjectives or Adverbs
D. Comparisons Between Multiple Pronouns
E. Sample Questions

"Parallelism" refers to sentences in which all items are described in the same format. Unlike some of the other grammatical topics covered in this chapter, parallelism is a pretty intuitive concept to master; there are no exceptions to memorize, no strange rules to remember. Once you understand the concept, you're pretty much good to go. But why, if it's so simple, is parallelism included so often on the GMAT? For the same reason that misplaced modifiers, subject-verb agreement, and other "simple" topics are included: because parallelism can be tricky to recognize.



How to recognize a parallelism
Parallelism is a rule of English grammar that demands consistency in a sentence's structure. Any lists of ideas, places, activities, or descriptions that have the same level of importance – whether they be words, phrases, or clauses - must be written in the same grammatical form. Some examples:

activities: running, biking, and hiking
places: the store, the museum, and the restaurant
ideas: how to read, how to write, and how to learn
descriptions: quickly, quietly, and happily

Note the grammatical consistency in each list: the 'activities' all end in ––ing; the 'places' are all singular nouns; the 'ideas' all begin with 'how to'; the 'descriptions' all end in –ly. In each list, whatever grammatical form is applied to one item is applied to all items. On the GMAT, this rule – what applies to one must apply to all – is pretty much all you need to remember.

Parallelism means something very similar to what it means in mathematics. Think of parallel lines:

They're straight, they're equally spaced and they're very clearly "parallel".

To translate this mathematical concept to grammar, first think of a sentence. A sentence can be split up in many different ways: by word, by phrase, by part of speech, by items in a list. What parallelism says is that these similar parts of a sentence must "track" one another, in the same way that parallel lines track one another. For example, every item in a list must use the same form as the others.

Think of it like this: pretend that the parts of a sentence are lined up, one on top of the next, along their own parallel lines. Consider the sentence "Joe was trying to decide between eating, running, and to walk to the store". There are three items in the list of activities that Joe is considering, so separate these and imagine them on their own parallel lines:


to walk

To be parallel, all verbs must look identical. In this case, one sticks out like a sore thumb: "to walk". Here's the correct version:


The concept of parallelism is easy to master - but recognizing a parallelism question is more difficult. This section will show you how to do both.



Lists of Verbs and Parallel Constructions

GRE Home Home