Être en train de : expressing ongoing actions in the present

Look at the sentences:

Elle est en train de faire ses devoirs
She is doing her homework

Je suis en train de prendre ma douche
I'm having my shower

Nous sommes en train de décorer la chambre du bébé en ce moment-même.
We are decorating the baby's room right now.



In French, there is no equivalent tense for the English Continuous Present (I'm doing) .

Le Présent (e.g. "Je vais") is used for both the Present tense ("I go...") and the Present Continuous ("I'm going...")

However, when you really want to emphasise the progression of the action, you can use the expression "être en train de" + infinitive (literally 'to be in the process of')

 

Also see Être en train de : expressing ongoing actions in the past

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Elles sont en train de jouer, mais il commence à pleuvoir
They are playing, but it starts raining


Je suis en train de prendre ma douche
I'm having my shower


Elle est en train de faire ses devoirs
She is doing her homework


Nous sommes en train de décorer la chambre du bébé en ce moment-même.
We are decorating the baby's room right now.



Q&A

David

Kwiziq community member

11 July 2018

0 replies

Is this expression being overused in Kwiziq

This expression keeps coming up in these quiz questions. Usually it is in a choose-one-from-list situation where it is indeed the best choice. But isn't it misleading since many of these cases would normally be adequately translated using Le Present since the emphasis on the  continuous nature of the action is not required?

Lewis

Kwiziq community member

12 December 2017

2 replies

Present continuous action

Bonjour, team. "Anne est en train d'aller à Paris." In addition to, "Anne is going to Paris", would a more precise translation be, "Anne is on her way to Paris"? Would the second translation be correct?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 December 2017

12/12/17

Translating between languages isn't an exact science and requires knowledge of the context.
From your question I glean that you have understood what the phrase "être en train de...." expresses. Which English translation you choose is now a matter of context and taste. But, to put it succinctly, "Anne is on her way to Paris" is within the bounds of the French original sentence.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 December 2017

13/12/17

Bonjour Lewis !

Actually no: the sentence "Anne est en train d'aller à Paris." doesn't literally mean this.

Of course, as Chris stated, you can always take liberties as a translator, and indeed, even in English, "Anne is going to Paris" and "Anne is on her way to Paris" mean roughly the same thing, but they are still two different sentences :)

In French, the equivalent would be "Anne est en train d'aller à Paris" vs "Anne est en route pour Paris".

I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

Milton

Kwiziq community member

27 April 2017

1 reply

is "Être en train de" always followed by an infinitive form of a verb?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

27 April 2017

27/04/17

Bonjour Milton, Oui, c'est correct. The lesson example is explained thusly: However, when you really want to emphasise the progression of the action, you can use the expression "être en train de" + infinitive (literally 'to be in the process of') J'espère que ceci au-dessus vous aide.

Lauren

Kwiziq community member

21 April 2017

1 reply

Difference between action going on right now and a more general state of affairs?

For instance, if I say in English "I'm studying French," I could mean "Oh, I'm actually reading my French lessons right now" or "I'm taking a course in French, but not right at this exact second." Can you use the 'être en train de" construction for the second sense, or does that not work in French?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

23 April 2017

23/04/17

This is a very good question. "être en train de" is a construction meant to state what you are doing at this point in time, i.e. Je suis en train de répondre à votre question, as I type this. The construction for the phrase: "I'm taking a course in French" Je prends un cours de Français or Je suis un cours d'anglais à la fac (this uses the verb suivre). I hope this helps.

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