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As an EFL teacher, I am currently teaching a unit on infinitives and one of the expressions covered in the textbook is "feeling adj. + inf" as in "I was glad to hear the news."

In a free writing activity, one of my students wrote the following about remembering a forgotten item:

"I was glad to notice my missing bag."

For some reason, my instict says that "I'm glad that I noticed my missing bag." would be more natural in this situation.

After looking online, I found an article on the Japanese version of yahoo answers that reveals that if the subject of the two verbs in the sentence is different, you must use the "adj. that S V" form instead of that using the infinitive.

However in this case, even though the subject of both glad and notice are I, using the infinitive expression still feels unnatural. Does anyone have any insight in why this is so?

As a reference, changing the present infinitive to a perfect one does ease the unnaturalness slightly, but I still prefer the expression using "that".

X "I was glad to notice my missing bag."

? "I was glad to have noticed my missing bag."

○ "I'm glad that I noticed my missing bag."

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  • You can notice a dead cat or a leaking water bottle, but you don’t logically notice a missing bag. Thus it’s a little odd either way.
    – Xanne
    Sep 21, 2023 at 3:38
  • Agreed - I don't think you 'notice' something that you would be actively looking for. I was glad to find/see/discover my missing bag would be fine. Sep 21, 2023 at 7:46
  • What does it mean? I can imagine it meaning either you noticed that your bag was missing (but why are you glad at that? Reasons I guess.) or you see a bag that you thought was missing but now isn't.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 21, 2023 at 8:31
  • I think the student meant that the bag was, up until that point, missing. The context of the statement was that they had forgotten to lock the door and when they went back to lock it, they noticed their bag.
    – JParker
    Sep 21, 2023 at 9:06
  • Even a standalone I was glad to see my missing bag sounds odd, perhaps because we're set up for a person I was glad to see my cousin; I was glad to see my missing bag there behind the radiator sounds more natural to my ears. 'Find' works better, standalone. But agreed, 'notice' needs replacing. Sep 21, 2023 at 10:58

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You can't notice something that's missing, so that's what makes those sentences odd. You can notice that something is missing, but you can't notice the thing itself if it's missing.

As for the comparison, provided one picks the right predicate adjective, either the construction with a to infinitive, or the equivalent tensed that clause will work. With all the bells and whistles attached, they look like this:

  • I was glad/happy/disappointed/surprised
    • to see/hear/notice him work/working on it.
    • that I saw/heard/noticed him work/working on it.

And they're both grammatical and they're both idiomatic English. Neither is "better". And ESL students need to know both constructions and their equivalency, the same as any other grammatical rule, like I gave the book to her vs I gave her the book.

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