When Not to Use Parallelism on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know that we are often tested on parallelism on the GMAT. The logically parallel entities should be grammatically parallel. But today, we need to talk about circumstances where you might be tempted to employ parallelism but it would be incorrect to do so.

For example, look at this sentence:

A New York City ordinance of 1897 regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, required cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and granted pedestrians right-of-way.

Is everything ok here? Well, it certainly seems so. We have four elements in parallel:

regulated …

mandated …

required …

granted …

But actually, there is a problem in this sentence:

‘regulated…’ will not be parallel to the rest of the three elements. The rest of the three elements will be in parallel.

Before we explain why, let’s take a simpler example:

The girl sitting next to me wears blue everyday, eats only waffles, and listens to music in office.

The sentence will not be ‘The girl sits next to me…’ because ‘sit’ is not parallel to other verbs. “sit” modifies the girl and is not used as a verb here. It is a present participle modifier modifying ‘girl’. It specifies the girl about whom we are talking.

Similarly, in the original sentence, ‘regulate’ is modifying ‘ordinance of 1897’. It is telling you which ordinance of 1897.

The other verbs ‘mandated’, ‘required’ and ‘granted’ are used as verbs and are parallel. They are assimilated under ‘regulate’. They tell you how the ordinance regulated.

How did it regulate?

mandated …

required …

granted …

Hence, you cannot use ‘regulated’ here. You must use ‘regulating’  – the present participle modifier to modify the ordinance. So you have to think logically – are the items in the given list actually parallel? Are they equal elements? If yes, then they need to be grammatically parallel too; else not.

Here is the complete official question:

Question: A New York City ordinance of 1897 regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an hour, required of cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all times, and it granted pedestrians right-of-way.

(A) regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required of cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all

times, and it granted

(B) regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all

times, granting

(C) regulating the use of bicycles mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required cyclists that they keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars

at all times, and it granted

(D) regulating the use of bicycles, mandating a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, requiring of cyclists that they keep feet on pedals and hands on

handlebars at all times, and granted

(E) regulating the use of bicycles mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all

times, and granted

Solution:

From our above discussion, we know that we have choose one of (C), and (E).

(A), (B) and (D) put regulate parallel to the other verbs.

Still, let’s point out all the errors of these options:

(A) regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required of cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all

times, and it granted

Parallelism problem – regulated cannot be parallel to mandated and other verbs. Also, ‘mandated’ is not parallel to ‘it granted’. Besides, ‘required of X to do Y’ is unidiomatic.

(B) regulated the use of bicycles, mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all

times, granting

Parallelism problem – ‘regulated’ is parallel to ‘mandated’ though it should not be.

‘granting’ is not parallel to ‘mandated’ and ‘required’ though it needs to be parallel.

You also need an ‘and’ before the last element of the list ‘and granted …’

(D) regulating the use of bicycles, mandating a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, requiring of cyclists that they keep feet on pedals and hands on

handlebars at all times, and granted

This is not a valid sentence because the main clause does not have a verb. ‘regulating…’, ‘mandating…’ and ‘requiring…’ are the present participle modifiers.

‘granted…’ is not parallel to the other elements. Besides, ‘requiring of X that they do Y’ is unidiomatic.

Now let’s look at the leftover options:

(C) regulating the use of bicycles mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required cyclists that they keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars

at all times, and it granted

‘it granted’ is not parallel to the other verbs. Besides, ‘required X that they do Y’ is unidiomatic.

(E) regulating the use of bicycles mandated a maximum speed of eight miles an

hour, required cyclists to keep feet on pedals and hands on handlebars at all

times, and granted

Perfect! All issues sorted out!

Answer (E)

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!