Suppose I get home and find an email from a friend that was sent while I was out. I reply by apologising that I didn't respond earlier since I was out. Is it better to say

"It's only now that I find your email, I've been out."


"It's only now that I'm finding your email, I've been out."

  • "I just found your email / now " or "I only just found your email / now" might be simpler?
    – A. Joe
    Dec 9, 2016 at 23:59
  • Thanks for your answers! My question was a technical one, namely distinguishing between the present simple and the present continuous, as stated in the headline. I knew the present simple was the better of the two options, I only wanted to have a few other opinions. The construction I chose was deliberately pedantic, so as to only admit of those two possibilities (and maybe also the present perfect). I was in no doubt that "I've only just seen your email" was a more natural way of putting it, but once again, the point was to distinguish between the present simple and the present continuous.
    – Dan
    Dec 10, 2016 at 22:44

2 Answers 2


If you want to get really technical, you're at the point of replying, so you're no longer "finding" the email; you've already found it.

Given that, if I had to choose between the two, I'd use the following:

"It is only now that I find your email."

However, neither of your options read very easily - they both sound somewhat forced. If I was in your position, I would write something like this:

"I've only just seen your email."

  • This sounds so unnatural to my ear. Pedantic. Dec 10, 2016 at 6:46
  • @aparente001, Dan asked which sounds better so I've stated which of the two I think is the best and provided the nearest alternative. Personally I think both sound unnatural and would write something like: "I've only just seen your email." But that wasn't the question was it?...
    – Luke
    Dec 10, 2016 at 6:51
  • "I've only just seen your email" sounds great (and more British and elegant than my clumsy Americanism). I think you should add it to your answer, along with your caveat. Not all English language learners find their way to ELL, and since your rep is 101 I will be so bold as to suggest that you not limit yourself so narrowly to the choices given when neither one works very well, for one reason or another. Dec 10, 2016 at 7:02
  • 1
    Thanks aparente001! I appreciate your advice. Yep, I'm new here and have had most of my experience on Stack Overflow where the question and answer requirements are a lot more strict in that users generally aren't looking for alternative solutions to the specific question they've asked. Thanks again! :)
    – Luke
    Dec 10, 2016 at 7:23
  • 1
    We try to send people away using English better than they did before they came. Similarly with editing other people's posts. Dec 10, 2016 at 7:27

Here's what I say in this situation:

I didn't see your email until now.

As a variant, you could also say:

I didn't see your email earlier.

You could add "I was out" but I personally don't think it's necessary. You could have been cooking, doing a jigsaw puzzle, having a conversation -- there is no law that says you have to be constantly monitoring your email.

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