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it is wonderful to feel or it is wonderful feeling

i have read somewhere that we have to use infinitive after adjectives so according to that it is wonderful to feel should be correct.

And it is feeling wonderful has a different meaning than it is wonderful to feel . Am i right ?

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  • i think . it is wonderful feeling is wrong it should be It is a wonderful feeling. Can somebody explain me the firrence betwwn it is wonderful to feel and it is a wonderful feeling . i think i know . but i am not 100% sure . Please if anyone can explain these two sentences to me
    – Toxic
    Mar 21 '17 at 14:11
  • To be clear about your first two examples. Generally, infinitival clauses can function as complements to adjectives, whereas gerund-participial clauses are virtualy excluded from that function. Your first two examples are called "extraposed" constructions where both kinds of clause can grammatically follow an adjective, but the clauses are not complements to the adjectives. Please see Araucaria's answer for a comprehensive explanation.
    – BillJ
    Mar 21 '17 at 16:28
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Consider the following examples:

  • These people are good to know.
  • The students are difficult to teach.
  • This exercise is tough to do.

In the examples above we see infinitives occurring as the Complements of various adjectives. We cannot use -ing forms with the same meaning. The following examples are ungrammatical.

  • *These people are good knowing.
  • *The students are difficult teaching.
  • *This exercise is tough doing.

Notice that all of the examples above have very normal Subjects. The Subjects in the sentences above are all noun phrases.

Now look at these sentences. They are a bit more unusual:

  • Knowing these people is good.
  • To know these people is good.
  • Teaching these students is difficult.
  • To teach these students is difficult.
  • Doing this exercise is silly.
  • To do this exercise is silly.

These sentences all use clauses as Subjects. They either use infinitival clauses or -ing clauses as Subject. They also have adjectives as complements of the verb BE. These sentences are unusual. We don't like to use clauses as Subjects in English. We prefer to use special sentences called extraposition constructions. To do this we stick the meaningless word it in the Subject position. We then move the clause to the end of the sentence. If we do that with the examples above, we will see that the clause now appears after the adjective:

  • It is good to know these people.
  • It is good knowing these people.
  • It is difficult to teach these students.
  • It is difficult teaching these students.
  • It is silly to do this exercise.
  • It is silly doing this exercise.

Although these clauses appear after the adjectives, they are not Complements of the adjectives. They appear after the adjectives outside the verb phrase. We call these Extraposed Subjects. (They aren't real Subjects though. The word it is the Subject in each of the examples above.)

Both -ing clauses and infinitive clauses can occur as Extraposed Subjects. The meaning of the sentences can be subtly different in each case. But they are both grammatical.

The Original Poster's example

  • It is wonderful feeling free.
  • It is wonderful to feel free.
  • It is wonderful being free.
  • It is wonderful to be free.

The sentences above are all grammatical. We can use either infinitives or -ing clauses here. The reason is that these clauses are Extraposed Subjects. They are not Complements of the adjective wonderful.


Grammar Note

There is a very small group of adjectives which cannot normally take either infinitives or -ing forms as Complements. One of these adjectives is the word possible:

*The screen was possible to see. (ungrammatical)

However, we can use these adjectives in extraposition constructions - but only with infinitives, not with gerunds:

It was possible to see the screen.

*It was possible seeing the screen. (ungrammatical)

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  • Could please tell me those adjectives which do not take infinitive or -ing forms as complements. is there a list? and "This medicine is pleasant to take. " I can write this sentence as " it is pleasant taking this medicine or it is pleasant to take this medicine "
    – Toxic
    Mar 21 '17 at 17:55
  • @Toxic I don't know of a comprehensive list, I'm afraid. The adjective possible is the one that always gives students problems though. I can't remember any others that regularly cause problems for learners. Mar 22 '17 at 14:07
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Both work. The infinitive is more "abstract" than the gerund in places where you can use both, which typically means you are talking about the possibility or ability of something to happen more than an actual happening.

It's wonderful to feel her touch.

This can lean toward being synomyous with "It's wonderful to be able to feel her touch."

It's wonderful feeling her touch.

This can lean toward being synomyous with "It's wonderful that she is touching me now or recently."

Note that feeling is a participle/gerund form of the verb to feel but is also a noun with a distinct meaning apart from the verbal (like building):

I had a feeling of love towards her.

I was feeling hot in the sun.

So it's possible to "be feeling feelings" or "feeling a feeling", though "feelings" in the romantic sense are typically "had", not "felt":

I was feeling a certain feeling for her, one I could not name.

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I don't entirely agree with your source, or with BillJ. Sentences like

It was nice meeting you.

are quite common, if not as common as

It was nice to meet you.

(13 instances in the NOW corpus, against 54 of the latter)

And this is not restricted to "nice": the NOW corpus has examples with "great", "wonderful", "cool", "good", "lovely", and "tough".

As to your subsidiary question, in the comment: "It is wonderful to feel" and "it is a wonderful feeling" are entirely different in structure and somewhat different in meaning. The first is saying something about the experience of feeling whatever - the clause "to feel xxx" is the complement of the statement "it is wonderful", and it would have exactly the same meaning if you transformed that to the subject: "To feel xxx is wonderful".

The second sentence is making a statement about some unspecified "it", saying that it is a wonderful feeling. Because it is preceded by a determiner ("a"), "feeling" must be functioning as a noun in a noun phrase.

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  • “It was nice meeting you” is an extraposed construction where the subordinate clause “meeting you” is not part of the PC. The PC is just “nice”, just as it is in the non-extraposed “Meeting you was nice”.
    – BillJ
    Mar 21 '17 at 14:57
  • OK. But how is that different from "It was nice to meet you" = "To meet you was nice"?
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 21 '17 at 15:02
  • It doesn't differ; it's the same construction. I'm inclined to think that I should have brought out the point about extraposition to the OP, instead of generalising that G-P clauses are not found as complements to adjectives, whereas infinitivals are.
    – BillJ
    Mar 21 '17 at 15:12

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