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Should I say

  • “I saw the kid. He is sleeping on the couch”

or

  • “I see the kid. He is sleeping on the couch”
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  • 2
    If you can no longer see him, use the first. If you can still see him, use the second. – Old Brixtonian Jan 4 at 10:15
  • The first must be an assumption, since the kid might have awoken since Andrew saw him. – Michael Harvey Jan 4 at 10:30
  • @MichaelHarvey Might be able to hear him snoring from the other room, of course. – Prime Mover Jan 4 at 12:22
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Everybody else seems not to like the first example. They want to change the second sentence to "He was sleeping on the couch."

But no, it all depends on what it is you want to say.

Scenario 1:

Somebody rings up while you are babysitting. You are in the lounge, where the child is fast asleep on the couch. "Can you see my son?" you are asked.

"I see the kid. He is sleeping on the couch," you reply.

Scenario 2:

Somebody rings up while you are babysitting. You are in the kitchen, and the child is fast asleep on the couch in the lounge. You have been asked to check up on him regularly. You have been doing that, but you are not now in direct view of the child (but you can still hear him snoring). "Have you checked up on my son recently? What's he up to at the moment?"

"I saw the kid. He is sleeping on the couch," you reply.

Scenario 3:

Yesterday you happened to be in the lounge somewhere. Someone asks you a question about what you saw. "Did you see my son when you stopped by yesterday?"

"I saw the kid. He was sleeping on the couch," you reply.

Scenario 4:

Somebody rings up while you are babysitting. Some time ago, the child in question was asleep on the couch, but he has woken up now and is playing with his toy soldiers. "Where's my son? Has he had his nap?" is the question.

"I see the kid. He was sleeping on the couch," you reply.

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  • I'm interested to learn why the downvote. – Prime Mover Jan 4 at 12:19
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If you saw him sleeping in the past, you would use the simple past 'saw', and since you can no longer see him, you should likewise use simple past for what he was doing:

I saw the kid. He was sleeping on the couch.

If you can see him now, in the present, and he is sleeping now, you should use the present tense for both verbs:

I see the kid. He is sleeping on the couch.

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Saw the kid sleeping sometime ago, use past tense:

“I saw the kid. He was sleeping on the couch.”

Note: Both should be past tenses.

Seeing the kid sleeping now (in front of your eyes), use present tense:

“I see the kid. He is sleeping on the couch.”

Note: Both should be present tenses.

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