Parallel Structure Exercise (723)

For each pair of sentences, choose the one that correctly organizes the syntactical elements.

    1.
    I’m not saying get used to the future; I’m saying get used to what is already happening.
    I’m not saying get used to the future, but what is already happening.

    2.
    He was located and sentenced to probation, community service, and had to pay back the government’s costs for searching for him.
    He was located and sentenced to probation and community service and had to pay back the government’s costs for searching for him.

    3.
    This is the latest of several meetings about officer-involved shootings, one of which had to be cut short because of the protests, and another had a young boy standing atop a table, cursing out the command staff.
    This is the latest of several meetings about officer-involved shootings, one of which had to be cut short because of the protests, and another of which had a young boy standing atop a table, cursing out the command staff.

    4.
    The record labels, in seeking payment from the streaming-music company, had argued in court that the songs are not covered by federal copyright law but that they have been protected in common law by states including New York.
    The record labels, in seeking payment from the streaming-music company, had argued in court that the songs are not covered by federal copyright law, but they have been protected in common law by states including New York.

    5.
    The size of big plant eaters not only makes them impressive and fascinating, but vital to the many species that live with and depend on them.
    The size of big plant eaters makes them not only impressive and fascinating but also vital to the many species that live with and depend on them.

Answers and Explanations

1. I’m not saying get used to the future; I’m saying get used to what is already happening.
The contrasting dependent clause ("but what is already happening") must be expanded to match the first clause as a distinct independent clause. Better yet, also set off the phrase following each instance of "saying" as a quotation and capitalize the first word of each phrase: "I’m not saying, ‘Get used to the future’; I’m saying, ‘Get used to what is already happening.’"

2. He was located and sentenced to probation and community service and had to pay back the government’s costs for searching for him.
In order for "community service" to share the verb phrase "sentenced to" with "probation," it must be linked to that word with a conjunction rather than separated from it by a comma.

3. This is the latest of several meetings about officer-involved shootings, one of which had to be cut short because of the protests, and another of which had a young boy standing atop a table, cursing out the command staff.
A repetition of "of which" has to be introduced to match the first one; alternatively, the final part of this sentence can be tacked on as an independent clause by replacing "and" with a semicolon: "This is the latest of several meetings about officer-involved shootings, one of which had to be cut short because of the protests; another had a young boy standing atop a table, cursing out the command staff."

4. The record labels, in seeking payment from the streaming-music company, had argued in court that the songs are not covered by federal copyright law but that they have been protected in common law by states including New York.
As originally written, the final phrase reads like a tangentially related comment. The insertion of "that" in parallel with "that" in "that the songs are not covered . . ." clarifies that a contrast is being made.

5. The size of big plant eaters makes them not only impressive and fascinating but also vital to the many species that live with and depend on them.
Because the verb "makes" applies to both sides of the contrast in this sentence, the verb must precede the entire phrase associated with "not only . . . but also." (Note, too, the insertion of "also," which is often mistakenly omitted from such constructions, and the deletion of a superfluous comma.)

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