Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

My suspicion was right when I condemned the label of some word classes as CLOSED FREE MORPHEMES. The linguistic implication of this has been misinterpreted. Some users assume that being closed means less important. I even read in a book that Interjections have no grammatical explanation. It is not amazing that most English Language teachers pay more attention to the OPEN FREE MORPHEMES like Noun, Verb, Adjective and Adverb; and run through the CLOSED ones like Determiners, Pronoun, Conjunction, Preposition and Interjection. Faulty parallelism emanates from the inappropriate use of conjunctions.

What then is a parallel structure? An expression is parallel when the words, phrases and clauses joined by a coordinate or correlative conjunction have the same structure in terms of word classes or classifications .

When is a parallelism faulty? A parallelism is faulty when an item or two among the items joined by a coordinate or correlative conjunction are different from the rest. Parallelism here means uniformity.

What are coordinate and correlative conjunctions? A coordinate conjunction is a conjunction that is used to join words, phrases or clauses of the same structure. What these conjunctions do is to join expressions that are uniform. These are the coordinate conjunctions:







Correlative conjunctions, however, perform the same functions as the coordinate conjunction. These are the correlative conjunctions:




Not only…..but also

An idea presented in a single pattern is said to be a parallel structure.

Here are examples:

The more, the merrier.

More and merrier are both comparatives and that shows they are parallel.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

Can you observe the parallelism here? The past tense is parallel and uniform in all the clauses. This is exactly the function of the coordinate and correlative conjunctions.

Expressions joined by them must have the same structure.

Speech is silver, but silence is golden.

Either you must leave, or I must leave.

Let me proceed by looking at the levels of faulty parallelism.

I have classified faulty parallelism into three levels:




At the word level, a parallel structure is faulty whenever the words joined by the coordinate or correlative conjunctions are not of the same word class.

Let’s examine this:

She is rude, prideful and has a high emotion.

The words rude and prideful are both adjectives. They are parallel. High emotion is a noun phrase and cannot be parallel with the adjectives.

What about this?

She is rude, prideful and emotional. This is correct because all the words are adjectives.

At the phrase level,

The process involves: inviting the guests, organizing the venue and _to decorate the place._

The parallelism became faulty with the inclusion of the phrase….to decorate the place.

Examine the uniformity:

Inviting the guests

Organizing the venue…the next item would have been:

Decorating the place.

At the clause level, the statement before and the statement after the conjunction must be of the same function.

Consider the expression:

Tell the truth and let the devil be ashamed.

Tell the truth, for example, is an imperative sentence, but an active voice.

Let the devil be ashamed, however, is a passive imperative sentence. Can we say that the two statements are parallel? No, they are not. An active voice cannot be brought together with a passive voice through the use of a coordinate conjunction.

How can this be corrected?

It is necessary to change the two expressions to an active voice for parallelism to occur.

Check this out!

Tell the truth and shame the devil.

Can you see the correctness and appropriateness?

Let’s examine some problems with faulty parallelism in some published documents

In the incident agents wearing carnival masks and armed with sub-machine guns battered down a bedroom door in the hotel…The service both failed to warn the hotel management and the police of the planned exercise.

Tony Duboudin, The Times 

The parallelism here is:

…The service both failed to warn the hotel management and the police of the planned action.

This can be corrected in this manner:

The service both failed to warn the hotel management and to warn the police of the planned exercise.

Here is another example:

More than half the cars in Brazil now run on alcohol, and the number is rising. Performance is comparable- or slightly better-than that of a petrol car, and can be as much as a 10 percent improvement.

-Sue Baker, The Observer

For the sake of symmetry and syntax, a to should be added after comparable, and the sentence should be re-punctuated : is comparable to- or slightly better than- that of a petrol car.

(The Right

Word at the Right Time)

Let’s examine another example:

A judge, both then and now, did not have completely free choice in the selection of their itineraries.

-Fenton Breaker, Lord Goddard

In the sentence, there is no Subject-verb agreement. The judge would have agreed with his or her instead of their.

Both then and now should not have been together as they represent past and present.

Why not?

A judge did not then, and does not now, have completely free choice

Overall, the major problem caused by faulty parallelism is a semantic challenge known as AMBIGUITY. Readers and listeners become confused whenever they read or listen to expressions that contain any faulty parallelism. The simple solution to a faulty parallelism is ensuring that the two parts of a construction are complete and balance in terms of the items and structures.





Aronoff M and Fudeman K. 2007. What is Morphology? Australia: Blackwell

Denham K and Lobeck A. 2010. Linguistics for Everyone. USA: Wadsworth

Finegan.E. 2008. Language Its Structure and Use. Australia: Wadsworth

Fromkin. V, Rodman. R.and Hyams. N. 2014. _An Introduction to Language_ USA: Wadsworth

Leiber. R. 2015. Introducing Morphology. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.


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