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French expression – Être en train de
|être en train de||to be in the process of|
There is a tense in English that doesn’t exist in the French language. It’s called the present progressive, and it indicates that the action is ongoing and continuous in nature.
In English, we use the present progressive to say that someone is doing or is in the process of doing something.
|to be + verb-ing something|
|to be reading|
|to be writing|
|to be saying|
Most of the time, you will just use the regular present tense to indicate subject + verb + ing. Have a look at how you can translate French verbs in the present tense:
|Je lis||I read|
I am reading
|Tu écris||You write|
You are writing
|Elle dit||She says|
She is saying
Être en train de + infinitive
When you really want to stress the importance of the action taking place at the moment you’re speaking and the continuous nature of the verb, you can use être en train de + infinitive.
*It could be tempting to use this expression all the time because it is so easy to form. However, there is such a thing as overkill. Usually the present tense will suffice.
Conjugate être in the present tense
|je suis||nous sommes|
|tu es||vous êtes|
|il – elle – on est||ils – elles sont|
|Je suis en train de lire.||I’m reading.|
I’m currently reading.
I’m in the process of reading.
I’m reading right now.
|Tu es en train d’écrire.||You’re writing.|
You’re currently writing.
You’re in the process of writing.
You’re writing right now.
|Elle est en train de dire quelque chose.||She’s saying something.|
She’s currently saying something.
She’s in the process of saying something.
She’s saying something right now.
The equivalent of the past progressive tense in English is the imperfect.
|Nous chantions||We were singing|
|Vous réfléchissiez||You were thinking|
|Ils attendaient||They were waiting|
Once again, when you really want to stress the continuous nature of the verb, you need to use être en train de + infinitive, putting être in the imperfect tense.
Conjugate être in the imperfect
|tu étais||vous étiez|
|il – elle – on était||ils – elles étaient|
|Nous étions en train de chanter.||We were singing.|
We were in the process of singing.
We were singing right then.
|Vous étiez en train de réfléchir.||You were thinking.|
You were in the process of thinking.
You were thinking right then.
|Ils étaient en train d’attendre.||They were waiting.|
They were in the process of waiting.
They were waiting right then.
Don’t make this mistake
Être en train de never describes a habit. To do that, you will need the simple present tense.
|Je bois du café.|
Je suis en train de boire du café.
|I drink coffee.I am drinking coffee.|
I’m drinking coffee right now (and the action continues).
|Je bois du café tous les matins.||I drink coffee every morning (this is a habit).|