My question is about the sentence

A few opportunities exist to get a better education in the U.S.(1)

Some people said: "It is a correct sentence."

However, I don't think so and will explain why.

The part "to get a better education in the U.S" refers to the main verb "exist", as you know, because, it doesn't refer to "a few opportunities".

(If they said:"A few opportunities to get a better education in the U.S exist", it would be OK, but right now, it has to refer to "exist")

Therefore, the infinitive clause "to get a better..." has to function to specify a purpose in that sentence.

My opinion is that this sentence grammatically means:

A few opportunities exist because the reason why they exist is to get a better education. Their aim to exist is to get a better education.

Adding "for someone" doesn't even solve that problem as well.

A few opportunities exist for me to get a better education in the U.S.

It also seems like they exist because their aim to exist is my getting a better education..

Finally, It is easy to read and understand them but the sentence(1) is not a natural sentence, it has no meaning in English grammar. It also proves that the questions "What opportunities are there to get a better education" and "What opportunities exist to get a better education" are also not natural.

Do you agree with me? If you don't, could you please explain why? At what point I am wrong?

  • The original sentence can be viewed as a transform (using the transformation called "Extraposition from NP") of the sentence A few opportunities to get a better education in the U.S. exist. Neither sentence says anything by itself about why such opportunities exist, nor who they exist for.
    – jlawler
    Jun 8, 2018 at 16:58
  • @jlawler Agreed, but, "A few opportunities to get a better education in the U.S. exist" is not the same as "A few opportunities exist to get a better education in the U.S" , as you know. Okay, their meanings are quite similar but their structures, as you can see, are very different. I think that the infinitive phrase "to get..." after the main verb "exist" functions as an adverbial and says for what a few opportunities exist. They exist for what? To get a better education.. It seems to be understandable in that way.
    – Jawel7
    Jun 8, 2018 at 17:09
  • 2
    When the meanings are the same but the structures differ by an exact amount, you have evidence for a transformation. Extraposition from NP takes a heavy clause modifying a noun phrase and moves it to the end of the sentence, usually to avoid stranding a short constituent at the end. Like Studies were published that showed no change from Studies that showed no change were published, or They sent a package to him containing his personal effects from They sent a package containing his personal effects to him.
    – jlawler
    Jun 8, 2018 at 17:16
  • 2
    I'm afraid you're wrong about the grammatical status of my second examples (...packet containing...). Both sentences are perfectly grammatical and mean the same thing, since Extraposition from NP is an optional transformation and is never required. Where did you get the idea that they were ungrammatical? From a native English speaker?
    – jlawler
    Jun 9, 2018 at 16:45
  • 2
    I'm not sure what to make of this question. It's language specific usage question which is off-topic here, or it's primarily opinion-based since it's about grammaticality judgement? Jun 12, 2018 at 14:28

3 Answers 3


First, the example sentence is jarring because 'a few' can mean anything from 'only a small amount' to 'some'. I would expect to read 'few opportunities exist' instead (although I would doubt its truth).

The verb 'exist' is very nearly copular.

An infinitive phrase can function as a compounding noun phrase attached to a noun, or as a subordinate verb controlled by another verb.

In English, indirect objects marked with 'to' (not to be confused with the infinitive marker 'to') are transposable adverbials -- they can appear before or after the direct object.

In summary, you are wrong about what is good/bad grammar, but keep trying.

  • Well, if it is an adverbial, as you said, the following sentence has to be correct as well. - To get a better education in the U.S, a few opportunities exist. Because you also said: "They are transposable". Is this sentence also OK? I think, yes it is.
    – Jawel7
    Jun 9, 2018 at 8:31
  • Yes, it has the same meaning as your original sentence. You might notice that 'in the U.S.' can also be considered a separate adverbial (because 'exist' is nearly copular), so it and 'to get a better education' can each be placed in various positions without changing the meaning. For example: "In the U.S., a few opportunities to get a better education exist."
    – amI
    Jun 11, 2018 at 19:01

The example sentence is okay, and in his comments, Lawler has explained why. To restate the matter, you have assumed the continuity of the parts of your example. It is usually a good assumption to assume that all the parts of a construction occur next to one another, but there are exceptions, and your example is one of them. The subject is a discontinuous constituent: "a few opportunities ... to get a better education in the U.S." That is the subject of the sentence's predicate, "exist".

The reason for moving part of the subject to the end is to keep simple the earliest parts of a construction. (Notice that I have just done this by moving "the earliest parts of a construction" to the right of "simple".)


Of course their existence is necessited by their use. In some cases the opportunity might not have been created under that expectation. But their existence within the scope of the sentence is puerly defined by them being opportunities for a better education.

You might come up with different examples where such reasoning does not work. Still, the only difference is a comma before "to", giving enumeration:

a comma (set before "to", to create an enumeration, to avoid repitions, to compress the sentence, ...).

This comma might otherwise be similar to the one before "too, also, though" and other such modifiers at the end of a sentence, which would also fit another position in the sentence, also.

What is point-free style in FP syntax.

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