French expression – Être en train de

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French expression – Être en train de

être en train deto 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

Present Tense

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 lisI read
I am reading
Tu écrisYou write
You are writing
Elle ditShe 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 suisnous sommes
tu esvous êtes
il – elle – on estils – 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. 

Imperfect Tense

The equivalent of the past progressive tense in English is the imperfect

Nous chantionsWe were singing
Vous réfléchissiezYou were thinking
Ils attendaientThey 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

j’étaisnous étions
tu étaisvous étiez
il – elle – on étaitils – 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).

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