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Is there any rule that would help me choose between using a present participle and using a same-root adjective?

For example, which one sounds better,

Americans were fully trustful toward their mass media in those days.

or

Americans were fully trusting their mass media in those days.

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    Is there some reason you don't want to use the simpler, "Americans fully trusted the media in those days"? – Andrew Feb 19 '18 at 5:03
  • @Andrew - Yes, there is one. It was two words in one sentence, each one of which depended on the word 'were': "Americans were fully trusting their mass media in those days and absolutely negative about Russia" – brilliant Feb 19 '18 at 5:17
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    In other words, you're trying to maintain the appropriate parallelism. Well done. – spoko Feb 19 '18 at 14:51
  • I'm with Andrew. verb + adverb is more succinct here. Why choose a roundabout, verbose alternative when you can be clear and succinct? were absolutely negative about is rather bad writing. Americans trusted their media fully and ________ Russia completely in those days. I don't even know what you would put in that blank since to be negative about is awfully vague. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 19 '18 at 15:49
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It was two words in one sentence, each one of which depended on the word 'were': Americans were fully trustful toward their mass media in those days and [were] absolutely negative about Russia

Fair enough. The answer to your question is that both of your examples are grammatically fine but awkward. English writing style recommends, where possible, using simpler forms and fewer words. If you can replace "were fully trusting toward" with "fully trusted", you probably should.

But then you have the challenge of making this parallel with "were absolutely negative". There are several tricks, but the most useful is simple vocabulary. What do you mean by "absolutely negative"? Is there a single word that means the same thing, but can be formed into a verb or an adjective (depending on the first part of the sentence), and possibly with additional nuance to give your opinion more depth?

Some options: antipathy, animosity, antagonism, enmity, hostility, rancor, opposition.

In the same way, what do you mean by "fully trusting"? Do you mean to imply that Americans were naive or gullible by having this trust in the mass media? Or rather, do you mean to say that the media themselves were more trustworthy in those days?

Some options: credence, confidence, faith, certitude, surety, conviction.

This gives you plenty of interesting combinations:

In those days, Americans had complete confidence in their mass media, and [had] absolute antipathy toward Russia.

In those days, Americans were naively credulous of the mass media, and [were] overtly hostile toward Russia.

Side note: If by "in those days" you mean "before ~1990", then it's probably more accurate to refer to "Russia" as "the Soviet Union" or "the USSR".

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  • (1) Andrew, thank you for your answer, but I find it a bit contradictory (and I, of course, may be wrong here). Look, in the very beginning you are saying, "English writing style recommends, where possible, using simpler forms and fewer words." But what in the end did you arrive at? You've changed were fully trusting to had complete confidence in / were naively credulous of, and you've also changed absolutely negative about to naively credulous of / overtly hostile toward. – brilliant Feb 20 '18 at 0:41
  • (2) At the very least, it doesn't look like you've chosen simpler forms or simpler way of saying here. As a non-native English speaker who has ventured to study English, I can say with a lot of assurance that such words and phrases like "were trusting", "absolutely", "negative about" are simpler to the learners and usually come first in your English learning as opposed to "had complete confidence in", "naive", "credulous" and "overtly hostile". – brilliant Feb 20 '18 at 0:41
  • It's a fair observation. I should have said: "A well-written sentence conveys the most information with the fewest words, without being confusing or misleading." Also, there was your challenge to use words that would allow you to repeat "were" (or in my example, "had"), e.g. "Americans were X and they were Y". This required words that sound good in this structure, and picking those is tricky. I don't know why, exactly, "fully trusting" doesn't sound as good as "complete confidence" to me, although it may have something to do with using adverbs vs. adjectives. – Andrew Feb 20 '18 at 2:45
  • In any case, the other benefit of the words I choose is that they contain nuance. "Antipathy" includes more targeted meaning than "negativity". "Credulity" implies gullibility and foolishness, as if the Americans were suckers to trust their media. Again, say more with less ... but I expect it's similar in any language. The more vocabulary you know, the more educated you can sound. – Andrew Feb 20 '18 at 2:48
  • "I don't know why, exactly, "fully trusting" doesn't sound as good as "complete confidence" to me" - This might be because "to trust" is not a motion verb. – brilliant Feb 20 '18 at 3:54
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I would say, speaking as an American at least, we have a strong preference for using the participle. Using a word like "trustful" sounds quite haughty. I'm not sure whether either is grammatically superior -- to me, they both seem fine in that regard. But the participle sounds much more natural.

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