Grammatical French Expression
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|Meaning||to be ___-ing, to be in the process of|
|Literally||to be in (the) action of|
|Pronunciation||[eh tra(n) treh(n) deu]|
|IPA||[ɜ tʀã tʀɛ̃ də]|
Usage notes: There’s no présent progressif in French, nothing grammatically equivalent to the English present progressive. So if you can’t use the present participle, how can you translate something like "I’m eating?" In most situations, you just use the present tense:
|Je mange.||I’m eating.|
|Le train traverse un viaduc.||The train is crossing a viaduct.|
But of course, those can also mean "I eat" and "the train crosses a viaduct." When you want to make that distinction between "verb" and "is verbing," you need the expression être en train de plus the infinitive of the action verb.
|Je suis en train de manger.||I’m eating (right now), I’m in the process of eating.|
|Le train est en train de traverser un viaduc.||The train is crossing a viaduct, right now.|
Être en train de can also be used in the past, by conjugating être in the imperfect.
|J’étais en train de manger quand tu es arrivé.||I was eating (right at the moment) you arrived.|
|Les biscuits étaient en train de cuire.||The cookies were cooking (right then).|
Be careful not to overuse this expression. The French present tense is usually sufficient; être en train de should be used only to stress a current and ongoing action.
Somewhat synonymous: Être en cours de
The meaning is similar, but this expression is passive and is usually followed by a noun rather than a verb:
|L’autoroute est en cours de construction.||The highway is under construction / being built.|
The French present participle cannot be used to translate "be + -ing."
Je suis mangeant and le train est traversant make no sense at all.
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