I bought not only a Christmas tree but also lots of presents.

The key for the exercises marks the sentence as a parallel structure, though I think it is not.

To be a parallel structure, the parts after the connectors should have the same forms. Considering the connector as not only... but also..., I don't see a Christmas tree and lots of presents as having the same form.

Am I wrong?

  • 1
    What do you mean by "same form"? a Christmas tree has the form DETERMINER ('a') + NOUN ('Christmas tree'). lots of presents has the same form DETERMINER ('lots of') + NOUN ('presents'). It depends on how strictly you interpret "same" and the level of granularity of "form".
    – DyingIsFun
    Aug 24, 2016 at 0:43
  • So my mistake was classifying a as a definite article instead of a determiner. Thank you, Mr. @Silenius. Aug 24, 2016 at 0:49
  • "indefinite article", not "definite".
    – Centaurus
    Aug 24, 2016 at 2:05
  • 1
    @Silenus. "Lots of" is not a determiner. "Lots" is a quantificational noun taking an of preposition phrase as complement.
    – BillJ
    Aug 24, 2016 at 5:59
  • 1
    I'm not aware of it being a vexed issue. Here, "lots" is a quantificational noun as head with an of PP as complement; at word-level "lots" and "of" are separate constituents (noun head + prep as part of complement).The "lots" in "lots of presents" is a number-transparent noun in that the number of the noun in the PP complement (i.e."presents") determines the verb agreement: "Lots of presents were received". Cf. "Lots of work was done".
    – BillJ
    Aug 24, 2016 at 11:46

2 Answers 2


I bought not only a Christmas tree but also lots of presents.

What did you buy?

"bought" is a transitive verb that takes an object

I bought a Christmas tree. [tree = noun = direct object]

I bought lots of presents. [lots = plural noun = direct object]

See Definition 5:


Parallelism is achieved with the direct objects being of the same form: nouns

I bought not only a Christmas tree but also lots of presents. (noun/noun) NOTE: It doesn't matter if one noun object is singular and the other plural; they are still of the same form: a noun.

I / bought / not only / a / Christmas / tree / but also / lots / of presents

Subject, pronoun / verb / conjunction / article / adjective / noun / conjunction / plural noun / adjective prepositional phrase that is modifying "lots" to describe, as an adjective would, "What kind? "Lots of what kind of things?" Presents

16a. Express parallel ideas in same grammatical form. Coordinate equal rank and connected by and, but, or, nor, or:

16b. Place correlative conjunctions immediately before the parallel terms (both..and, either...or, neither...nor, not only...but also)

John E. Warriner. Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition. Fifth Course. Liberty Edition. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich. 1986. 303-08.


The 'similarity' required to license the not only .. but also construction is that both entities serve the same syntactic role. In your sentence both a Christmas tree and lots of presents are NPs (in fact they are both actual 'noun phrases') serving as objects of bought.

You may in fact employ this construction with much more dissimilar entities:

I bought not only a Christmas tree but also whatever the lot offered which I could twist into a collection of handsome Christmas wreaths for the walls.

  • I think you'll need a that after offered to prevent readers from taking the non-parallel garden path.
    – deadrat
    Aug 24, 2016 at 1:51
  • @deadrat I hope you'll settle for which: I have a longstanding aversion to relative that when it can be avoided. Aug 24, 2016 at 1:52
  • Based on Strunk and White, I support @deadrat. He's obviously a practiced "which" hunter. Aug 24, 2016 at 3:36
  • @RichardKayser That which which that that replaced is fine with me. I just wanted to avoid the parse Whatever the lot offered, I could twist into a collection....
    – deadrat
    Aug 24, 2016 at 4:26
  • @deadrat Shouldn't it be "That which that that that replaced is fine with me"? Record number of consecutive properly-used thats? Aug 24, 2016 at 4:35

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