ACT English and SAT Writing Tips: Parallel Prepositions

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The use of prepositionsParallel in a series must either be used by all members of a series or by only the first member of the series in order to be considered parallel.

Both of the following sentences are correct:

You can succeed on the SAT by reading, by studying, and by taking a prep class.    [Correct]

You can succeed on the SAT by reading, studying, and taking a prep class.    [Correct]

In the first sentence, the preposition by is used by all three items in the list: by reading, by studying, and by taking. In the second example, the preposition by is only used by the first item: by reading, studying, and taking.

This sentence, however, is incorrect:

You can succeed on the SAT by reading, by studying, and taking a prep class.    [Incorrect]

Only two of the items in the series use the preposition by, making the sentence ungrammatical.

A series using prepositions does not have to repeat the same preposition:

We have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Just ensure that all of the objects receive a preposition. This sentence is incorrect:

You can travel to the town on a plane, in a car, or a boat.    [Incorrect]

The nouns plane and car are the objects of the prepositions on and in. Because the noun boat is in the same series, it must also be the object of a preposition:

You can travel to the town on a plane, in a car, or by a boat.    [Correct]

Examine a question type that might appear on the ACT or SAT using unparallel prepositions:

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In the relative phrase, there are three groups of people for whom the toys are being collected: for children, parents, and for babies. Notice that the second group, parents, is missing a preposition. Either all three of the groups must use a preposition:

for children in the shelter,

for parents who are unemployed over the holidays, and

for babies in the hospital

Or just the first group:

for children in the shelter,

parents who are unemployed over the holidays, and

babies in the hospital

Choice (B) is correct, as it deletes the preposition for  from the third group, babies:

The toy drive—which collects new toys for children in the shelter, parents who are unemployed over the holidays, and babies in the hospital—is slated to start the last week in November.    [Correct]

Now the sentence is parallel.

 

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Photo: Today's repeating pattern, courtesty of Kevin Dooley