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Intro to Parallelism

Mike McGarry
Lesson by Mike McGarry
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Introduction to Parallelism. Parallelism is one of the GMAT's favorite features. About 30% of the GMAT sentence correction questions will involve some sort of parallelism. So it's a very important topic. This video starts with the basics.

So, what is parallelism? This is not something very easy to define, so here's one definition. Parallelism is a pattern of matching in a sentence. In a sequence of two or more elements. The elements must be of the same part of speech and each element must play the same grammatical and logical role in the sentence.

Holy mackerel, that's complicated. Let's focus on one piece at a time. To start, for simplicity, we will look at single-word parallelism. Any part of speech can be represented in parallelism. So I'm gonna be mentioning parts of speech here. If these terms are unfamiliar, I would suggest going back and watching the videos in the section parts of speech.

So, we could have two nouns in parallel. Cars and trucks are on the road. I like both cats and dogs. Everything in purple here, these phrases are in parallel. Notice they were using and to join the two nouns and in the second one we use both dot dot and dot dot.

We’ll talk about that more in a moment. We could have two verbs in parallel. Should we respond to him or ignore him? Notice here we're using or to join the two elements in parallel. We could have two adjectives in parallel. The novel is long but engaging.

The storm is a clear and present danger. Notice in the first one, we're using but to join the two elements in parallel. We could have two adverbs in parallel. He drove quickly yet carefully. Here we're using yet to join the two elements in parallel. In addition to single words in parallel, we can put two or more of almost any larger grammatical structure in parallel.

So, for example, two prepositional phrases. He completed the test in haste and with a sense of panic. Those two are in parallel, the two prepositional phrases. In haste and with a sense. We could two, put two participial phrases in parallel. Well, these are just single participles here.

She showed us her new car, newly washed and gleaming in the morning sun. Washed and gleaming are participles. And notice that washed is a past participle and gleaming is a present participle. The participles don’t have to be in the same tense when they’re in parallel, even verbs don’t have to be in the same tense if they’re in parallel.

We could put two gerunds in parallel. Smoking tobacco products and eating fried foods are two high risk activities for heart disease. Smoking and eating begin two gerund phrases. And again I'll say, if we're running into terms that are unfamiliar, if you're not familiar with what a participial phrase is or a gerund phrase is, I would suggest going back to the module on verb form.

And those are discussed in depth there. Notice, in a series of two or more words or phrases, we use conjunctions to join them. So, there are different categories of conjunctions. We might use coordinating conjunctions. These would be and, but, or, or yet.

We might use correlative conjunctions. Those are two piece conjunctions. Both P and Q. Either P or Q. Not P, but Q. Not only P, but also Q.

Neither P, nor Q. So those are the two part conjunctions, with a piece before the first element and then a piece between the elements. Anytime those appear the two elements have to be in parallel. One special case I'll mention, just as A, so B, this one's a little bit different. For the other correlative conjunctions, we could join two nouns, two verbs, two adjectives.

We could join any part of speech. This last one's a special case. Just as A, so B. We can only use independent clauses with this. Just as, independent clause. So, independent clause.

We can put two independent clauses in parallel, but nothing else. All of these are good markers for parallelism. So anytime you see any of these popping up in a sentence, there's a good chance that at some level, there's some kind of parallelism. Finally, remember that parallelism depends not only on grammar, but also on logic. Notice the parallelism in that sentence, incidentally.

Consider this sentence. I swept the floor with a broom and with my friend Kevin. Well, that sentence doesn't quite work. You see the problem is the broom, when I say with a broom, I'm using that as an instrument. I'm talking about the tool I use to sweep the floor.

But when I say with my friend Kevin, I'm talking about the person who accompanied me. In other words, Kevin and I were together and both swept the floor. So broom and Kevin are not logically parallel, they're not playing the same logical role in the sentence at all. That sentence is grammatically correct, but logically incorrect because broom and Kevin are not playing the same logical role.

Never forget, the GMAT Sentence Correction is not just about grammar, but about grammar and logic and rhetoric all together. All of those must be working. And with parallelism in particular we have to pay attention to the logic. In summary, we talked a little bit about what parallelism is. The items in parallel must be the same part of speech.

Items in parallelism need not be exact copies. For example, verbs can be in tenses, we can use different prepositions, that sort of thing. Conjunctions are a big clue to spotting parallelism, and it's a good idea to know those conjunctions that I mentioned. And finally, parallelism depends both on grammar and logic.

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Sentence Correction - Parallelism