I'm not talking about the basic items in a list (e.g. X, Y and Z), but a list of clauses (I think).


I am interested in things like going to this place, going to that place, eating food, and other things. In that example, do the verbs have to match for proper grammar? What I learned in university writing class was that the entire series has to have verbs that match: going to this place, going to that place and going to eat.

  • What's the name of this type of list? – theonlygusti Feb 16 '18 at 18:55

The verb tenses certainly need to match. Just try it without matching them to see how horrible it sounds:

I enjoy things like play on the beach, going to the fair, and ate ice cream.

The verb itself doesn't have to match, but it's more aesthetically pleasing if it either matches all the way through or never matches: you can certainly say

I like going to the the beach, going to the mall, and playing hockey

but it would sound better if you either said

I like going to the beach, the mall, and the hockey rink


I like going to the beach, shopping at the mall, and playing hockey.

One thing you definitely want to avoid is starting a list with one verb form that's implied for the rest of the list, and then changing it partway through:

I like going to the beach, the mall, the theater, and playing hockey.

And finally, don't forget to stay away from syllepsis.

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    "You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff." — Groucho Marx – Malvolio Feb 2 '11 at 4:18

Grammatical matching is called parallelism. Good usage requires any series of items (whether verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, or anything else) to be parallel in form, i.e. having the same grammatical form.

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Personally, I always place the comma before the conjunction, but I believe it's only a style thing.


one, two, three, and four


one, two, three and four

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  • 2
    This question is about verbs, not the serial comma. – waiwai933 Feb 2 '11 at 2:35
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    It's true the question is about the verbs to use in a comma-separated list, but the question title was not the best title to use, nor was the question tagged with verbs. I can understand why warren didn't correctly reply to the question. – kiamlaluno Feb 2 '11 at 4:23

This is a list of verbs, all in the same tense, separated by commas: "I hesitated, stopped, waited."

The above is correct, but there is nothing wrong with using different tenses: "I love, have loved, will love."

This is a subject and verb followed by clauses: "I love to eat, to sleep, to dream." Using different tenses: "I love to eat, sleeping, dreamt" doesn't work. The last instance, "dreamt", doesn't match the verb. However, there is nothing wrong with mixing objects, some of which may not even be verb clauses: "I like flowers, walks on the beach, and eating ice-cream." Tense doesn't matter here. What matters is that the objects work properly with the subject and verb.

The verb in the following sentence is "like". The clauses are objects. The clauses have to match the verb, even if they don't match each other. There is nothing wrong with having a clause with a list of different objects followed by another clause with another object. Lists of lists are sometimes confusing, but are acceptable, and sometimes necessary in order to convey the meaning desired. Breaking it down with a colon should make it clear. Start with connected sentences that all use "like". "I like going to the beach. I like going to the mall. I like going to the theater. I like playing hockey." Break it down with the shared subject and verb, a colon, and the associated clauses.

I like:

going to the beach, 

going to the mall, 

going to the theater,

playing hockey.

The above can be rewritten like this:

I like:


    to the beach,

    to the mall, 

    to the theater,



and can be written like this:

"I like going to the beach, the mall, the theater, and playing hockey."

Note in this example that the tense is still matched across all objects.

Using your example, you have a list of action clauses following like: "I am interested in things like: going to this place, going to that place, eating food, and (doing) other things." The implied "doing" matches the other clauses in tense. You could re-write the sentence using individual sentences all starting with "I am interested in things like". Therefore, the sentence is correct.

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The restriction you are speaking of is not applied in the nowadays writing.

I came, I saw the uncut grass, and ran back into the house.
All I had to do was going to the store, going to the barber shop, and returning home before 4:00 PM.

The verbs should all use the same tense, but that doesn't mean that if the first verb is going to, then you need to keep writing going to and not using another verb.

A sentence like

I am going to eat, going to rest, and going to go to an appointment.

is normally written without to repeat going to every time.

I am going to eat, rest, and go to an appointment.

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    I would call your first example sentence ungrammatical: mixing past and present tense ("came, saw" and then "run") in the same list is not proper. I would also say your second sentence is poorly phrased with the mixing of the infinitive form "to do" and then the gerund form "going/returning" in the actual list; it would sound much better as "All I had to do was go to the store, then the barber shop, and then return home before 4:00pm." – Hellion Feb 2 '11 at 4:46
  • Using run instead of ran was a typo, and I keep to make that error because I confuse the past with the past participle. I corrected the second sentence too. – kiamlaluno Feb 2 '11 at 4:55

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