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Parallelism 3,258 views

Teacher/Instructor Eva Holtz
Eva Holtz

Harvard University
Perfect scores on the SAT and 4 SATIIs

Eva is a certified admissions counselor and the founder of PrepPoint, a premier test prep company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Welcome to your lesson on parallelism. Now the term may sound unfamiliar but the good news is it's actually something you're used to using everyday. For instance you're probably familiar with the expression 'Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise' that's parallelism and you didn't even know it. Let me show you what that would look like without parallelism. 'Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, have a lot of money and wise.' Has the same exact same meaning but it is not parallel let's talk briefly about why. 'Healthy' is an adjective, 'have a lot of money' is something called a verb phrase that means it's a verb, the word 'have' followed by some other words. And then 'wise' is an adjective again. So because we're mixing and matching parts of speech, adjectives and verb phrases it's not parallel and that's not okay. Let's talk a little more about parallelism. 'The creators of the SAT love to use incorrect parallelism as a way of creating wrong answer choices' and you'll see it most often on the improving sentences questions. And 'if you find incorrect parallelism it's great because you can eliminate the answer automatically.' Now let's go deeper with this in just a moment.
So in our initial example with healthy, wealthy and wise we were using parallelism because of the word 'and', but it's not just 'and' that requires parallelism there are other words too that indicate you need to make sure that parallelism is being used. On the minor side there are a lot of them on the plus side they almost spell banana, they spell BANANO. So if you see 'both/and' if you see 'and' if you see 'not only/but also,' if you see 'as well as,' if you see 'either or' or 'neither nor' or if you see 'or' that means you're going to need to check for parallelism. Just to give you an idea what that would look like, just like before I said 'healthy, wealthy and wise' so the three pieces here needed to have parallelism. The same would hold true for anything here. For instance I could say 'I want both coffee and tea' and coffee and tea would have to be parallel in that case they are 'cause they're both nouns. Let's see some examples of each of the BANANO words. First up the 'B' in BANANO 'both/and' here is a sentence that's flawed because it's lacking proper parallelism. 'Based on sales trends, the jeweler anticipated a rise in the demand both for gold chains and platinum rings.' Now what we do first of all is recognize that we're dealing with parallelism and we do that by noticing 'both/and.' So then we check the two pieces being connected by 'both' and 'and.' The first piece is 'for gold chains' that's a prepositional phrase because it starts with the preposition 'for'. Now if you're not up on what a prepositional phrase is check out the bonus materials because it outlines what a preposition is and what a prepositional phrase is and you definitely want to be comfortable with that. Even if the terminology isn't tested on the SAT the knowledge underlying is. Anyway this is a prepositional phrase 'cause it starts with a preposition 'for.' The other piece over here is just a noun phrase. A preposition and a noun don't match but there are two ways of fixing the problem. Either both pieces can be prepositional phrases or both pieces can be nouns let's look at those.
One revision would give us 'for gold chains' prepositional phrase and 'for platinum rings' another prepositional phrase problem solved. And the other revision would give us two noun phrases 'gold chains' is a noun phrase, 'platinum rings' is a noun phrase again problem solved. So that's the B in BANANO we're going to work our way slowly through. Let's look at the 'A' for 'and'. 'My favorite hobbies are watching movies, reading magazines and baseball.' Let's run through the parts of speech for each and see why the parallelism here is broken. First we have 'watching movies' and that's a verb phrase, we have 'reading magazines' also a verb phrase and 'baseball' which is a plain old noun. So the two ways to fix this is to make all the pieces verb phrases or all the pieces nouns. Let's have a look first all verb phrases 'watching movies, reading magazines and playing baseball' problem solved. The other approach is all nouns 'my favorite hobbies are movies, magazines and baseball.'
Next up the 'N' 'not only', 'but also' 'Melinda Gates is not only the co-director of The Gates Foundation but also has two children.' Now that actually might sound intuitively okay to you and that's why this problem comes up all the time on the test. But it's not okay because here after 'not only' we have 'the co-director of The Gates Foundation,' that's a noun phrase because it's a kind of a person. And after 'but also' we have, 'has two children' that's a verb phrase 'cause it starts with a verb 'has.' So to make the match you've probably got the rhythm here, the first way we can do it is to have two nouns and the second way we can do it is to have two verb phrases let's have a look. 'Melinda Gates is not only the co-director of The Gates Foundation' that's a noun 'but also the mother of two children' again a noun so we're happy. While the other effects 'Melinda Gates not only is the co-director of The Gates Foundation but also has two children' both verb phrases also solves the problem.
Moving on to the middle 'A' in BANANO 'the financial guru recommends stocks as well as buying bonds.' Now this one probably sounds goofy to you so I'm glad your intuition is good on that. The first fix would be to make them both nouns 'stocks and bonds.' The second fix would be to make them both verb phrases 'purchasing stocks and buying bonds.' Next up 'neither/nor' which by the way can also be 'either/or' so let's look at the original sentence here. 'Once college starts many students neither call their mothers nor their fathers with any regularity.' The first fix to make them both verb phrases 'call their mothers or contact their fathers' are both verb phrases so they match and we have parallelism. The second fix is actually to move the verb outside of 'neither/nor.' And then we have two noun phrases here is 'their mothers, here is their fathers' they're both noun phrases so we've solved the problem. And we're getting near the end 'cause we're on the 'N' and here's is 'O' for 'or' in BANANO. The last example 'right now I would enjoy a cold beverage or strolling down the beach.' Now the problem here is that a 'cold beverage' is a noun phrase, 'strolling down the beach' is a verb phrase and you know the drill by now. So we can make them both noun phrases 'right now I would enjoy a cold beverage or a stroll down the beach.' Or both verb phrases 'right now I would enjoy drinking a cold beverage or strolling down the beach.' So that's BANANO in action that's where you use parallelism and now let's see that in action with a sample SAT problem.
So now we have a sample SAT problem with parallelism in the context of the type of question called improving sentences. So to recap in this question type we look at the underlined portion and see whether it's okay as it is which is always choice A or the better change to B, C, D or E. First of all you're suppose to notice that parallelism is relevant here because we have one of our BANANO words we have 'either' and we have 'or'. So given 'either or' we should check the two pieces been connected and make sure they share the same part of the speech. So on the one hand we have be 'interesting' which is a verb phrase because it starts with the verb 'be' and on the other hand we have 'well paid' it's an adjective because it describes the job. So those two don't match, the way to fix it would probably be to get two verb phrases or two adjective phrases let's see which of the answer choices achieve that. A is a repeat we can already skip it because we know it's wrong. Let's look at B here's 'either' and 'or' and we have 'be interesting' which is a verb phrase and 'lucrative' which is a very fancy adjective so that's not going to work.
Let's look at C we have 'either' and 'or,' 'either' is associated with 'interesting' which is an adjective and 'lucrative' is an adjective too. So that sounds pretty good but check this out the verb changed and whenever something changes you should check and see what's going on. This would be a really good answer choice expect 'is', is in the present tense and 'when I get my first summer job' is talking about something in the future. Changing tense for no reason is not a good idea, it's not a right answer. And by the way if you want to study tense more there's an episode on tense to check out this is out. D we have 'either or' here we have 'interesting' which is an adjective and 'well paid' which is also an adjective so that sounds pretty good let's check back with that in just a second. And lastly E, 'either or' gets a little boring we have 'interesting' here adjective 'pay well' is a verb phrase 'cause it starts with the verb 'pay' so again a mis-match sure enough D is the right answer because it fulfills the requirement for parallelism. Next up let's do a quick recap.
So here is the bottom line on parallelism you should be on the look out for it as soon as you see any of these BANANO words. 'Both/and' 'and', 'not only', 'but also', 'as well as', 'neither/nor' which is also 'either/or' and lastly 'or'. And if you see that in the question itself or if you see it in any of the answer choices you should look really critically because as soon as you find incorrect parallelism there you know have a wrong answer choice and you can cross it out. And that's parallelism.