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I caught a cold and started to write email about that. I wrote it this way:

I've caught a cold and I'm staying at home for a couple of days.

Yet I doubt about tense choice. Should I use Present Perfect or Past Simple in the first part of the sentence? I'm pretty sure Present Perfect fits well here: it happened in the past yet there's apparent result in the present.

Should I use Present Continuous or Present Simple in the second part? I chose Present Continuous to refer both to the present moment and to the nearest future.

8

Grammatically, your sentence

I've caught a cold and I'm staying at home for a couple of days.

is perfect. In American English, you could just as well use the simple past in the first clause. I think in British English the present perfect is expected here.

The simple present I stay at home talks about regular or habitual activities. In your case, you are talking about a single instance of staying at home (even if it lasts a couple of days). You are not saying you stay at home habitually or regularly, but about one instance. So, yes, your use of the present progressive is perfect here.

Functionally, your sentence also gets the message across, by the choice of tenses. And it is helpful, for several reasons, to be able to choose the best way of expressing something.

However, what if you had written

I've caught a cold and I stay at home.

Yes, you would sound like a non-native speaker, but you would still be attempting to communicate in a foreign language, and your reader would probably be able to understand what you mean. So, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Get out there and try to communicate in English. Three fourths of the people who ask questions here just need to go attempt to communicate in English, and learn how to best express themselves by imitating native speakers. They will learn the answers by trying to communicate. And I think that's what you have done, because your instinct was correct. Even though I've said that, don't hesitate to ask good questions on this site. (But, still, learning by actually using the language in meaningful contexts is the best way of learning.)

  • I'm not afraid to make mistakes. I communicate in English each day as part of my work, I also read books in English occasionally. Yet reading is easier than writing. No one will correct my mistakes if I do them. Yet it's still important for me to use most suitable words and tenses. That's why I asked this question. My native language is Russian which has only three tenses – no many to choose from. – Alexey Ivanov Oct 1 '16 at 12:12
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Should I use Present Perfect or Past Simple in the first part of the sentence?

Your intuition that Present Perfect fits here is good; we typically use Present Perfect when a past action has continued relevance to the present, so since you are talking about how catching a cold results in staying home, it would make sense to use Present Perfect.

That said, if you did you the simple past, it would still be understood, but the connection between the two events would be weaker.

Should I use Present Continuous or Present Simple in the second part?

Out of those two options, you can only use Present Continuous. The simple present typically indicates habitual actions (e.g. "I stay home on Tuesdays"); it has some other uses but they wouldn't occur in this case. Present Continuous is used for actions in progress, which fits this case.

Alternatively, you could also use the simple Future:

I've caught a cold and I will be staying at home for a couple of days.

This could be interpreted slightly different from your original because the "staying" is now in the future rather than current, but in practice the difference is very slight.

Minor notes: At least in American English, in many cases, you don't need "at" with home. For example, you can stay home, go home, come home, leave home etc.

Similarly, at least in American English, you will see couple used without "of".

  • You need "at" in "at home" and "of" in "couple of days" in British English; it sounds very awkward without them, even when being informal. – Jim Oldfield Sep 23 '16 at 15:22
  • @JimOldfield I'll back that up, cobber. – Magoo Sep 23 '16 at 15:23
  • Your example uses Future Continuous (or Progressive). Which one: Simple or Continuous – fits better? However, Present Continuous seems to fit better than a future tense here. Yes, I heard about dropping "at" and "of", yet these phrases sound kind of wrong. I tend to always use the prepositions in these phrases. – Alexey Ivanov Oct 1 '16 at 12:16
  • 1
    Present Continuous, Future Continuous and Future simple are all valid. Present Continuous definitely emphasizes that the action is currently in progress whereas the other ones indicate that it has not yet started (but could be starting very soon). There's not a huge difference between the two future variants, but for a sentence like this (connected with a past condition), the continuous version seems more natural to me. – eques Oct 1 '16 at 14:18
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It depends on which English you follow, AmE or BrE. You can use either the present perfect or the simple past for recent actions in AmE, but the use of the present perfect is more common and fits well in the sentence. However, in BrE, you don't use the simple past for the actions happened recently with a result in the present; the correct tense in BrE is, therefore, the present perfect.

As for the part 2 of your question, this should be in the future. As you can use the present continuous to express future events, your sentence is correct grammatically.

  • I communicate with American people, yet I studied British English. I know that AmE tends to simplify language constructs and orthography. But I don't always know the difference between them. – Alexey Ivanov Oct 1 '16 at 12:36
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Regardless of tense, I would suggest using "so" instead of "and", as in:

I caught a cold, so I will be staying home a couple days.

(AmE, informal)

This makes it sound like a consequence of the cold, instead of two separate statements.

  • 2
    Meh. We often use and to connect two sentences, either temporally: 'I went to the store and bought some bread' or consequently: 'I'm sick of county music and I only listen to rock n roll now'. – Alan Carmack Sep 23 '16 at 19:03
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I would suggest writing either

I caught a cold so I am staying at home...

or

I have a cold so I am staying at home...

Either you're staying home because you caught a cold recently, or because you have a cold now.

The action ("caught") was in the past and completed in the past, therefore simple past applies. In other words, you're not still catching the cold, you already finished catching it yesterday.

If you were still developing a fever you might write

I've been developing a fever so I am staying home...

  • Downvoter care to comment so I can improve my next answer? :-) – Jens Ehrich Sep 24 '16 at 0:46
  • Im not the downvoter, but I think you need to recheck your answer. You need 'I' as a subject in the second clause. And I think I've caught a cold is still a better suggestion :) – user178049 Sep 24 '16 at 9:54
  • Doesn't Present Perfect mean just that: "I caught a cold recently and I still have it now"? Your last sentence also implies that I had fever for some time already and I still have it, doesn't it? – Alexey Ivanov Oct 1 '16 at 12:40

protected by Community Sep 23 '16 at 22:11

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