Need help to understand "to be" parallelism : GMAT Sentence Correction (SC)
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# Need help to understand "to be" parallelism

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Need help to understand "to be" parallelism [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2012, 00:57
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Hi All,

I am struggling to understand the "to be" parallelism. In Manhattan SC guide supposedly the below sentence signals parallelism, however i fail to understand how?
ex. "The flower bouquet WAS the husband's loving gift to his wife"
So usage of WAS means parallel?

Similarly another example given is "Because of his intolerant attitude, that politician always SEEMS TO BE attaching the poor". Here too i don't understand the parallelism. This looks like a sentence than comparison.

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Re: Need help to understand "to be" parallelism [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2012, 10:25
summer101 wrote:
Hi All,
I am struggling to understand the "to be" parallelism. In Manhattan SC guide supposedly the below sentence signals parallelism, however i fail to understand how?
ex. "The flower bouquet WAS the husband's loving gift to his wife"
So usage of WAS means parallel?

Similarly another example given is "Because of his intolerant attitude, that politician always SEEMS TO BE attacking the poor". Here too I don't understand the parallelism. This looks like a sentence than comparison.

I'm happy to help.
The word "parallelism" is a giant and somewhat abstract category of grammatical constructions --- it includes any time when two words in different parts of the sentence need to be in the same grammatical form.

Ordinarily, we think of parallel elements as joined by conjunctions ---- "A and B", "X or Y", "not only P, but also Q" --- of course, all of those are perfectly fine examples of parallelism, and most parallelism on GMAT SC will be of this form.

What the MGMAT books astutely point out is that the verb "to be" and other linking verbs also create a potential parallel structure. When I say: "X is Y", or "X seems Y", or "X has remained Y", I am essentially equating X and Y. If everything is a ordinary noun or ordinary adjective, it's not so much of an issue, but when you stir verb forms (infinitive, gerunds) into the mix, then you need to be alert to issues of parallelism. For example:

To welcome each new day wholeheartedly is embracing life fully. WRONG [infinitive] & [gerund]

Welcoming each new day wholeheartedly is to embrace life fully. WRONG [gerund] & [infinitive]

To welcome each new day wholeheartedly is to embrace life fully. RIGHT --- both infinitives

Because of this, it seems the GMAT SC would frown on a sentence such as ......
Noticing what is unique in each moment is the way of Zen.
.... because we are equating a verb form, a gerund ("noticing"), with a noun ("way"). It seems they would prefer something along the lines of ....
Attention to what is unique in each moment is the way of Zen.
There, both parts are ordinary nouns, so the demands of parallelism are satisfied.

Does this make sense?

Mike
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Re: Need help to understand "to be" parallelism [#permalink]

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11 Oct 2012, 03:39
Thanks Magoosh,

Your sentence "To welcome each new day wholeheartedly is to embrace life fully" made sense as you are comparing using two infinitives.
however the 2nd sentence "Attention to what is unique in each moment is the way of Zen. " makes it difficult. What are we comparing here (parallel) ?
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Re: Need help to understand "to be" parallelism [#permalink]

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11 Oct 2012, 09:29
summer101 wrote:
Thanks Magoosh,
Your sentence "To welcome each new day wholeheartedly is to embrace life fully" made sense as you are comparing using two infinitives. However the 2nd sentence "Attention to what is unique in each moment is the way of Zen. " makes it difficult. What are we comparing here (parallel)?

Dear Summer101,
First of all, please call me by my personal name: Mike. I work for Magoosh, but I do not fully embody Magoosh in my own person.

One technique that's very helpful for dissecting a complex sentence is something you might call "bracketing" --- for any part of the sentence that is playing a particular modifying role, set that off in brackets or parentheses. For example, in the sentence ....

Attention to what is unique in each moment is the way of Zen

.... there's a long prepositional phrase, "to what is unique in each moment" --- technically, that's a prepositional phrase whose object is a substantive clause (i.e. a noun clause) --- for more on those, see this blog:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/substantiv ... -the-gmat/
The point is --- that entire distended prepositional phrase is an adjectival phrase modifying "attention", telling us what kind of "attention" --- so let's bracket it. (For more on adjectival phrases, see: http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/gmat-gramm ... d-clauses/) We'll also bracket the little prepositional phrase "of Zen."

Attention (to what is unique in each moment) is the way (of Zen)

Now, drop the bracketed phrases ....

Attention .... is the way ...

First of all, this now sounds like something a Zen Master would say. More to the point, it makes the grammar very clear --- we are equating two nouns, "attention" and "way", so those two words are in parallel.

Does all this make sense?
Mike
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Re: Need help to understand "to be" parallelism   [#permalink] 11 Oct 2012, 09:29
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