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I teach English and a student of mine recently came out with the following sentence:

She thinks that to become a marketing manager is the opportunity she seeks for.

I thought this was a curious use of the infinitive. It's wrong in this case but I do think the structure is sometimes used in English, for example in sentences like: 'to be a miner is a wonderful thing' (normally it would be the gerund here but I think the infinitive is legitimate). But I don't think I could say exactly when it can be used.

Any ideas that anyone has would be greatly appreciated!

M

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    Not going to post as an answer because I don't think I have anything valuable enough to say about it, but that "for" is definitely out of place. You can certainly seek to become a marketing manager, but I don't think you can seek for to become one. – John Clifford Feb 6 '16 at 17:58
  • "To become a marketing manager is the opportunity she seeks", is perfectly valid. Somehow when I read her full sentence though my brain inserts in order making the sentence "She thinks that in order to become a marketing manager is the opportunity she seeks", which is definitely a wrong sentence. I cannot decide, whether the insertion is my mind playing tricks, or whether it is somehow mandatory for some reason I can't make out. – Born2Smile Feb 7 '16 at 2:11
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She thinks that to become a marketing manager is the opportunity she seeks for.

As @John Clifford points out, the last for is wrong. Seek doesn't need a preposition.
There are four clauses (one main and three subordinate), viz. (deleted words parenthesized):

  1. She thinks [that to become a marketing manager is the opportunity she seeks].
    • Main clause, with a that clause complement as the direct object of thinks.
  2. (that) [(for Indef/her) to become a marketing manager] is the opportunity she seeks
    • That clause, with an infinitive clause complement as the subject of is, and
      a predicate noun phrase containing a relative clause modifying opportunity.
  3. (for Indef/her) to become a marketing manager
    • Infinitive clause, with a deleted subject that's either indefinite or identical with she.
  4. (that/which) she seeks
    • Restrictive (or "integrated") relative clause modifying the predicate NP the opportunity.

Respectively, the three subordinate clauses include a tensed object that complement, an untensed subject infinitive complement, and a tensed relative clause. The two complement clauses act as nouns (one subject, one object), and the relative clause acts as an adjective.

These are all grammatically correct. The sentence is, however, awkward, because English dislikes having long complex clauses (especially infinitive clauses) as subjects. There are a lot of syntactic rules (like Extraposition, for instance) that make sure heavy subject clauses (especially infinitive clauses) occur at the end of the sentence, where they're easier to parse.

  • To be a manager is my ambition.
    ==> Extraposition ==>
  • It is my ambition to be a manager.
  • Thanks, great answer. That makes sense and I'm happy to introduced to the concept of extraposition. I think the resulting sentence is still a little strange but not so syntactically awkward: She thinks that the opportunity she seeks is to become a marketing manager. – user159214 Feb 19 '16 at 16:43

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