The motto of the institution where I work is:

To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life

Is this (double use of the to-infinitive) grammatically correct? And if so, is it common to set up a sentence like this?

  • It's syntactically valid. A little ambiguous as a slogan, as one isn't sure whether it's two independent phrases or the second one is modifying the first. – Hot Licks Jun 9 '20 at 11:54
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    @HotLicks - The ambiguity of the motto can well be intended. – Yellow Sky Jun 9 '20 at 11:59
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    It's not a "sentence", but slogans/mottos don't need to be. – Hot Licks Jun 9 '20 at 12:53
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    While not wrong, it would flow more naturally if it were the following: Exploring the potential of nature in order to improve the quality of life. – Jason Bassford Jun 9 '20 at 16:59
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    Absolutely no utterance at all needs to be a sentence. And what's a sentence is not defined to begin with. Ask five people, get six different answers. In the end it's just a label. You can call this utterance a sentence, or an incomplete sentence, or an excavator with floppy ears. It does not care one bit what you call it. – RegDwigнt Jun 9 '20 at 17:49

There are two ways to interpret this.

To improve the quality of life is an infinitive clause. It could be modifying explore:

[Our purpose is] to explore... to improve the quality of life.

In this interpretation, to improve the quality of life is the purpose for your exploration.

To improve the quality of life could also be modifying potential:

[Our purpose is] to explore the potential [to improve the quality of life] of nature.

This may sound clunky, but I simply switched the locations of the two modifiers applied to potential (to improve... and of nature) in order to illustrate my point.

These two methods of understanding yield very similar results, and the slogan is probably intentionally ambiguous. For more meaningless slogans and a few good laughs, read this Cracked.com article.

Hope this helps!

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    It's not a prepositional phrase. It's an infinitive clause. – John Lawler Jun 9 '20 at 17:30
  • @JohnLawler Can't it be both? To is a preposition, after all... – Micah Windsor Jun 9 '20 at 17:35
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    Yes, but improve the quality of life is a verb phrase, not a noun phrase, and a preposition phrase requires a preposition and a noun phrase object. – John Lawler Jun 9 '20 at 17:53
  • There are two to's. I went to London (preposition, as usual followed by a noun phrase) / I went to turn the machine off (infinitive-marker particle, as usual followed by an infinitive; some boldly insert an adverb). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 9 '20 at 18:55
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    @HotLicks That was a trainwreck. – Micah Windsor Jun 10 '20 at 19:58

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