GMAT Parallelism-All You Need To Know

[Author: Sherin Mathew]

Parallelism is a literary device that can serve as a rhetorical, or a stylistic device. There is a certain structural construction that determines whether a given sentence an example of parallelism. One can call it a kind of internal rhyme within sentences wherein these need not necessarily be lines that make up the stanzas of a poem.

Common examples are,
As you sow, so shall you reap.
Don’t work hard; work smart.
To err is human, to forgive divine.

The not so common ones:
Jason sings as well as he plays the keyboard.
I might not be the fastest or the smartest but I am the most sincere.

Like the very word suggests, Parallelism can be understood mathematically, as it is similar to concepts of parallel lines in geometry or mensuration, or even concepts like ratio and proportion (the latter half of this sentence being the longest example of a parallelism on this page ).
As we can see, there is a type of mathematical logic that defines what can constitute a parallelism, and what doesn’t.

What runs parallelly in the above illustrations are not merely the repetition of a sound, syllable, word, phrase or clause but the constant and deliberate maintaining of a particular tense.

For instance, the statement, she likes to watch countless movies and spends her time playing countless video games, is a correct sentence though it cannot be a classic parallelism (despite the fact that the preposition to and the adjective countless is repeated in both the first and second part/phrases in the sentence). To make it under the banner of our topic of the day, what we can do is to simply change the tense of either of the verbs to match the other.


She likes to watch movies and to play video games (works as a parallelism, even though we have removed the recurrent adjective countless, since both the main verbs, watch and play are in the simple present tense).

She likes watching movies and playing video games (both to & countless are removed but the sentence works as a parallelism as both main verbs now employ the present continuous tense).

Each parallel sentence has more than one part to it (more than one main verb) or can be two or more simple sentences combined with the help of conjuctions or even phrases or just using punctuative tools like the comma, the colon, the semi-colon, the period etc.
[What this conversely means is also that the simplest of sentences like she walks cannot be a parallelism unless used with successive sentences like: she walks. She talks.]
Other hard and fast rules lie alongside singularity or plurality as far as the objects or common nouns within a sentence are concerned.
Mary ate apples and an orange, is not an example of a parallelism.
Mary ate an apple and an orange (one of each) or Mary ate apples and oranges (several of either fruit), both however works as examples.

*Activity: Go over this article once again and spot as many parallelisms as you can. We have tried to use them in most of our sentences. Enjoy!

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