This is the sentence in question:

The last time he slept in a room by himself must have been that melancholy week between Stave’s passing and my arriving.

Now, in the above sentence, the structure is parallel, but using the gerund form of "to arrive" seems a little unnatural to me. Would it still be parallel structure if instead of using "arriving" - the gerund form - I used arrival, as in the sentence below?

The last time he slept in a room by himself must have been that melancholy week between Stave’s passing and my arrival.

Are both of these sentences correct? More generally, can a gerund be paired with a noun and still maintain parallel sentence structure?

(I looked at this website here but that didn't provide the answer I was looking for and neither did this)

  • If you couldn't pair a gerund with a noun, then we would need an equivalent noun for every gerund. Use your judgment: is strict parallelism or using exactly the right word preferable? Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:42
  • Possibly you are under the impression that you need strict parallelism. Look at the bible: Matthew 7:7. (Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.) Not one of the many versions listed maintains strict parallelism. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:57
  • @PeterShor The question is the other way around, as far as I can tell: it's asking whether, if there is both a gerund and a noun available, it is fine to use the noun (rather than the gerund) in parallel with a gerund; i.e., can you ignore the existence of the more parallel gerund and go with the noun instead. We wouldn't need an equivalent verbal noun for every gerund, but an equivalent gerund for every verbal noun—and luckily, we already have that. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 23:24
  • 1
    Part of your confusion arises from using the term "gerund". I'd forget it if I were you; many serious grammarians don't use the term nowadays anyway. So the question is are "passing" and "arriving" nouns or verbs, and is it possible to have a coordination consisting of a noun and a verb? The answer is that "passing" is ambiguous - it could be a noun ("Stave's recent/unexpected passing") or a verb ("Stave's passing unexpectedly last week"). "Arriving" on the other hand is most likely a verb as in "my arriving unexpectedly".
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 14:36
  • You have a fine parallel when you use two nouns in passing and arrival. Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


I'll go ahead and solidify all the constructive comments into an answer. Both of the example sentences are grammatically correct. However, your implied "generally" question assumes that non-parallel sentence structure is somehow grammatically incorrect (both versions are correct!). Here, forming sentences with non-parallel structure is simply a matter of style -- not grammar. Yet on the other hand, intent and interpretation trump grammar.

From your word choice and overall sentence structure, the sentence seems to be an excerpt of some kind of written prose (practically no one under the age of 65 uses the word "melancholy" in conversational speech Did you mean Steve?).

If interpreting this excerpt in isolation, then I am in agreement with @BillJ -- this particular usage is ambiguous. But if this excerpt is indeed written prose, which is to be taken with additional context, then its usage (and ultimately, effect of interpretation) is up to the author.

I will say that my preference is for the second iteration (passing/arrival), but simply because I can derive a more concrete meaning out of it (in isolation, of course).

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