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I had a lot of opportunities to meet many different people and listen to their stories.

Always I am confused whether I have to use "to Verb" or "Verb+ing". I guess that sentence is the past tense, so I have to use meeting instead of to meet?

And could you tell me if you have a better idea to make that sentence sounds more natural?

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  • To + verb is called the infinitive. To + verb + ing is not correct in any situation I can imagine. You would never say "going to meeting," the proper usage would be "going to meet" (although you might say "going to a meeting," but in this case, meeting is a noun and the object of the preposition to). Jun 3, 2016 at 14:01

2 Answers 2

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The sentence sounds fine.

To meet is an infinitive form acting as an adjective because it is modifying opportunities. It is proper to use an infinitive because of that.

Incidentally, Aspects of Modern English Usage: for advanced students has guidance on just this point:

With an indefinite premodifier other than 'a', 'opportunity' is always followed by an infinitive:

  • "He has plenty of opportunities to meet interesting people"
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    To meet is a verb (because it's an infinitive). It's not an adjective. You can tell because it can't be compared -- there's nothing for an infinitive along the lines of pretty->prettier -- and it can't take a descriptive attributive position (the to meet kind of opportunities doesn't work) or a descriptive predicative position. It's role in the sentence isn't as an adjunct because it doesn't really provide optional information and it's not movable: you can't move the infinitive clause to the beginning. It's a complement clause of purpose licensed by had.
    – deadrat
    May 4, 2016 at 4:49
  • Infinitives are by definition not verbs but rather verbals, typically used as a noun, adjective, or adverb. In this case the "verb" is acting as an adjective. I am not aware of any rule that an adjective must be comparable (in English anyway). Disagree on the complement clause as there's no complementizer present. Consider sentences with similar structures: "I have some windows to clean," or "You must go to sleep".
    – Entendu
    May 4, 2016 at 7:07
  • With verb*/*verbal you're standing on a technical point of terminology. Infinitives aren't finite verbs -- they don't inflect for tense -- but they can have subjects an objects, which is why some grammars just call them verbs. Nouns, adjectives, and adverbs are parts of speech. They get used as subjects, objects, modifiers, and so on. It's best to keep the class of a word and its role in a sentence separate.
    – deadrat
    May 4, 2016 at 7:36
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    If you have some windows to clean, you don't have clean windows. In fact, you have the opposite. Neither do you have to clean windows in general. The infinitive clause is not mobile. To clean completes the thought of having a task. It can't be left out without changing the sense. These considerations rule out its being an adjunct. In any case, complementizers aren't always necessary, as reduced relative clauses show.
    – deadrat
    May 4, 2016 at 7:41
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It depends on the tense you're speaking/writing in. You need to be consistent throughout.

To say, "I had a lot of opportunities to meet many different people and listen to their stories," is almost, but not quite, correct. It should read, "I've had a lot of opportunities to meet many different people and learn (or "hear" if you prefer) their stories."

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  • The simple past ("had") versus the past perfect ("have had") is not what the questions concerns. The simple past could be perfectly correct if the OP was referring to a specific event in the past where there were "a lot of opportunities to meet."
    – vpn
    Jul 4, 2016 at 0:19

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