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In the page of 'memory lane' in theFreeDictionary, there's such a sentence as follows.

It was lovely finding our old photo albums and taking a trip down memory lane.

We should use 'to do', rather than 'doing', after 'it's adj.', right? Why does the sentence in that dictionary use 'doing something'?

Below that sentence in the dictionary, there's another sentence which seems kind of similar and nonetheless bothers me.

To be quite honest, it's growing quite dull doing nothing but re-visiting memory lane when I get together with my high school friends.

What's the grammar pattern behind these two sentences? I also wonder which of 'adj. + doing' and 'adj. + to do' is preferred under what circumstances. Seems that a common grammar book wouldn't talk about this.

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    I think this might be just a matter of "idiomacy" after a "verb of transition" (with a range of "final states") such as growing dull in your context. While l don't like infinitive to do one little bit in your exact example, I don't mind it so much in It's becoming embarrassing to do nothing, and it's effectively unavoidable in It's becoming necessary to do nothing. Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 12:24
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    ...maybe "verb of transition" is irrelevant. Or maybe becoming, growing,... count as "transitional copulas". I think all these examples still work exactly the same with the standard copula TO BE (is) - so growing quite can safely be removed from the example without affecting the scope of "valid Answers" here. Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 12:30

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It is simply not true that "We should use 'to do', rather than 'doing', after 'it's adj'": it depends on the adjective, and the sense.

When the statement is an external judgment about the action - about its possibility, appropriateness, wisdom - we use a to-infinitive clause;

It is foolish to go out in this weather.

It is sensible to dress up warmly.

When the statement is about the experience of doing the action, we normally use an -ing clause:

It is lovely walking on a windy day.

It is tiring walking against the wind.

It was fun sorting through those photos.

But we can sometimes use a to- clause when talking about a particular occasion:

It was fun sorting/to sort through those photos the other day.

Please don't rely on grammar-quizzes.com: in another question a couple of days ago we found that it was full of unidiomatic English.

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  • Fascinating. I briefly thought it might be meaningful to differentiate the two usages on the grounds that It will be fun to see / seeing them tomorrow could imply for me too see... or for you seeing... - but actually that doesn't seem to be relevant. But although I prefer the infinitive in your first ("foolish") example, I much prefer the continuous in It's no use complaining - just do what she wants. And surely no use is an "external judgment", so why is that one different? Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 17:52
  • Dunno. No use is an odd one anyway: I'm not convinced it is an adjective.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 23:01
  • Perhaps there's something in your "specialist knowledge" that makes you skeptical as to whether no use is an "adjective" (that's all way past my pay grade! :). But I see NGrams says it's always continuous after no use and infinitive after useless. Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 21:32
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We should use 'to do', rather than 'doing', after 'it's adj.', right?

I don't see anything on the linked page that says that you can't use "doing" after "it's [adjective]".1 In fact, either construction (with an infinitive or a gerund) is possible. Both are examples of "extraposition" in which the subject is postponed and replaced by "it". Without extraposition, the sentences would be (for convenience, I've highlighted the extraposed subject):

First example sentence:

Finding our old photo albums and taking a trip down memory lane was lovely.
To find our old photo albums and take a trip down memory lane was lovely.

Second example sentence:

To be quite honest, doing nothing but re-visiting memory lane when I get together with my high school friends is growing quite dull.
To be quite honest, to do nothing but re-visit memory lane when I get together with my high school friends is growing quite dull.

It is common to extrapose subjects (as I did there!), especially when they are lengthy, as in those example sentences. ELL has an extraposition tag that contains some questions that you might find useful. (I've added that tag to this question, too.)


I also wonder which of 'adj. + doing' and 'adj. + to do' is preferred under what circumstances.

I won't address this issue, because another question on ELL already asks directly about it. If you're still confused, you may want to edit or otherwise bump that question so that it gets some attention.


1 That website seems to have problems. Within seconds I noticed a blatant error: "Restating a that-clauses as an infinitive clause". I'd be wary of whatever it says.

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