Parallel Structure (Parallelism) Exercises with Answers


[Students: Jump to Exercises | Teachers: Download the free worksheet: parallel-structure-worksheet.pdf.]

Quick Review

Parallel structure (also known as parallelism) is an efficient way to organize a series (a list) in a sentence.  Common patterns of parallel structure include listing adjectives with other adjectives, nouns with nouns, or verb phrases in a certain form with phrases in the same form. Here are some examples:

  • Alan is intelligent, patient, and experienced. [series of adjectives]
  • Alan has intelligence, patience, and experience. [series of nouns]
  • Alan is good at calculating figures, formatting documents, and identifying errors. [series of verbs starting with a gerund]

Parallel structure is especially important in academic writing. It makes sentences more concise, and thereby efficient. Compare the below examples:

  • The speech was clear, funny, and it taught the audience a lot. [not parallel or concise]
  • The speech was clear, funny, and educational. [parallel – series of adjectives]
  • Exercising can give you more energy, improve your appearance, and people who exercise often live longer. [not parallel]
  • Exercising can give you more energy, improve your appearance, and increase your lifespan. [parallel – series of verb phrases]

The parallel sentences above are shorter and easier to read in general. [parallel – two verbs in infinite (base) form]

Writing in parallel structure can be difficult at times. The challenge is finding what parts of the sentence can be linked. Here’s an example of how a series can be linked by sharing parts of a sentence.

  • She likes reading books and she likes spending time outside. [Not efficient – nothing is linked/shared between clauses.]
  • She likes reading books and likes spending time outside. [A little better – the subject ‘She’ is being shared]
  • She likes reading books and spending time outside. [Perfect – “She likes” is shared and then followed by the gerund form of the verb. This sentence, with only eight words, is now very efficient.

Note: Neither/Either/Both/Not Only

Parallelism is also important when you use the phrases neither… nor / either … or / both / not only … but also.

  • He was both happy or confused.
  • You can either join us or stay home.
  • It’s important not only to study, but also to get a good grade.

Let’s do some exercises. Teachers, you can download the exercises as a worksheet here: parallel-structure-worksheet.pdf.

Exercise Group 1: Identifying Faulty Parallelism

Which item in the series is not parallel with the others?  Select it from the dropdown list.

  1. Series: 
  2. Series: 
  3. Series: 
  4. Series: 
  5. Series: 

  

Show Explanation

Exercise Group 2: Parallel Structure

Rewrite the below sentences in parallel structure. Be sure to add a period where required or the sentence will be marked as incorrect.

  1. I dislike cleaning and
  2. I searched in my bag, on the table, and
  3. Surfing, skateboarding and require good balance.
  4. He was both angry and
  5. She wants to get a job, make some money, and
  6. A good employee should be reliable, , and respectful.

  

Exercise Group 3: Parallel Structure

Rewrite the below sentences in parallel structure. Again, be sure to add a period or the sentence will be marked as incorrect. Note: Use the Oxford Comma  in your answers (keep a comma between the last two items of the series.)

  1. She learned the value of patience, being committed, and loyalty.
  2. They visited the zoo, they ate at restaurants, and stayed in a nice hotel.
  3. His story was neither confusing nor did it bore me.
  4. You can either come with us or staying home is also an option.
  5. William is known for his good looks, sense of humor, and he’s also wealthy.

  

Exercise Group 4: Efficient Sentences

Fix the faulty parallelism in the below sentences. Use the Oxford Comma between the last two items of the series.

  1. I was asked for my name, address, and how old I was.
  2. The students were told to pick a topic. Then they should do some research, and write an outline.
  3. The new analyst is polite, knowledgeable, and he always arrives on time.
  4. At the circus, clowns told jokes, musicians played instruments, and tricks were performed by animals.
  5. I don’t know who you are, what you want, or the reason you are here.

  

A worker at his desk

The new analyst is polite, knowledgeable, and he always arrives on time punctual.

Bonus Exercises: Parallelism & Writing Concisely

Make these sentences more concise by adding parallel structures. Again, use the Oxford Comma between the last two items of the series.

  1. The new boss aimed to raise employee morale and to increase productivity.
  2. To succeed in life, work hard. Listening to others is also a good idea. Honesty is also important.
  3. The car is advertised as compact, affordable, and it doesn’t use much fuel.
  4. Parents are responsible for clothing their children, they must feed their children, and it’s important that they educate their children as well.
  5. My qualifications include two years of work experience, an undergraduate degree, and I speak English fluently.

  

Did you find a mistake? Do you have a question? Leave a comment below.

— Written by Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com (copyright)

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