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I recently got confused with the following choices while talking to a friend after class:

I sent her an email that I wouldn't come to the class.

I sent her an email that I wouldn't be coming to the class.

I sent her an email that I won't be coming to the class.

I sent her an email that I won't come to the class.

Can we use the third and fourth sentence by any chance or is it completely ungrammatical? Some websites including the NYTimes have instances where both the past and future are mixed in their reports.

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It would be usual, at least in British English, to write 'I sent her an email SAYING that . . .' –  Barrie England Mar 4 '12 at 20:26

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

NB: I find it nicer to put "to say" before "that", though why I find that nicer is probably a subject for another post. I've done that here.

If the class was in the past then the first example is fine.

Lucy expected you in the class on Thursday. Where were you?
Didn't she get the message? I sent her an email to say that I wouldn't come to the class.

The second can be used when the class is in the past or future. It can also be used to show something that's continuous.

Lucy expected you in the class on Thursday. Where were you?
I sent her an email to say that I wouldn't be coming to the class.

Lucy sent me. Is there anything you need for your presentation on Tuesday?
Don't you know? I've moved to a different town. I sent her an email to say that I wouldn't be coming to the class any more.

If you're using would for events in the future, it indicates that it's likely, unless something changes.

I sent her an email to say that I wouldn't be coming to the class unless I got fired from my new job.

The term will, or its negative, won't, can indicate a stronger, more likely absence, and only works with classes in the future. There's far less possibility of change in this. Here's your fourth example:

Did you hear that Lucy's banned the use of acrylic paints next week?
Yes. I sent her an email to say that I won't come to the class.

Your third example shows an ongoing absence, rather than just one occasion:

Lucy loves the work the students did last week. Did you know she's banned acrylic paints for good?
Yes. I sent her an email to say that I won't be coming to the class.

They're all valid, with slightly different meanings. Generally, if the class is in the past use wouldn't, otherwise use won't, and if the absence is continuous, use be coming, otherwise use come.

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+1 Nice explanation. But many times the use of will be + verb-ing over will is just a matter of stylistic choice without difference in meaning. –  Irene Mar 4 '12 at 20:50
    
I think it has a difference in connotation which may impact the stylistic choice, but, yes, you can use any of them. I would find it odd to hear won't used for the past, though. Maybe suggests rather than shows? –  Lunivore Mar 4 '12 at 22:10

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