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Parallelism In Lists

 

Whenever a sentence contains a list, the members of the list should be parallel in form.


Sentences may contain any type of grammatical units (such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, predicates or even whole sentences) coordinated into a compound sentence using the coordinating conjunctions. Study the following sentences in which the members of the lists italicized with explanations following.

  • Radium, thorium, uranium, plutonium and curium are some important radioactive metals. (All the italicized elements are nouns, which are parallel to each other.)
  • To prepare the honey wine, an ancient Spanish-Roman naturalist took rain water stored for several years, mixed it with honey, exposed the mixture to the Sun for 40 days, and left the mixture undisturbed for two years. (The italicized verbs are parallel to each other and the words dependent on each of the verbs are parts of the parallel elements.)
  • The later attempts of the king to reestablish the kingdom were blocked either by the rival countries or by revolting groups. (The prepositional phrases connected by the correlative conjunction either … or are parallel elements.)

Study the following example which is relatively simple.

* A good dictionary can be used for many purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings and looking up irregular verbs.

In the above example, a list of purposes is given. We can find ‘word meanings’, ‘pronunciations’, ‘correct spellings’. But the last phrase in the list (looking up irregular verbs) is not parallel to others. Thus this sentence is an incorrect one.

Look at the following sentences which are the corrected versions of the above.

* A good dictionary can be used for many purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings and irregular verbs.

* A good dictionary can be used for many purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations and correct spellings and to look up irregular verbs.





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