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Être en train de

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Il est en train de plonger pour le ballon

Il est en train de plonger pour le ballon

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Expression: Être en train de

Pronunciation: [eh tra(n) treh(n) deu]

Meaning: to be ___-ing, to be in the process of

Literal translation: to be in (the) action of

Register: normal

Notes: French doesn't have a verb form equivalent to the present progressive. Normally, you just use the simple present in French (je parle) to express both the English simple present (I speak) and the present progressive (I am speaking). When you want to insist on the current, ongoing nature of an action in French, you can use the expression être en train de:

   Je suis en train de parler.
   I am (in the process of) speaking (right now).

The French equivalent of the English past progressive (I was speaking) is the imperfect: je parlais. But again, if you need to stress the fact that the action was continuing, you can use être en train de:

   J'étais en train d'écrire ma thèse quand le tremblement de terre a frappé.
   I was (in the middle of) writing my thesis when the earthquake struck.

Related expression: être en cours de has a similar meaning, but it's passive and is usually followed by a noun: La maison est en cours d'aménagement - the house is being renovated.

Grammar note: while the French present participle -ant can't be used to mean that one is doing something, it is equivalent to -ing in English when used as a noun or adjective.


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