Être en train de

Grammatical French Expression

Le train est en train de cracher une fumée noire
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!
Meaning to be ___-ing, to be in the process of
Literally to be in (the) action of
Register normal
Pronunciation French sound files [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:

Par exemple…

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.

Par exemple…

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.

Par exemple…

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.

 Related lessons

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Être en train de

Questions about French?

 Visit the Progress with Lawless French Q+A forum to get help from native French speakers and fellow learners.

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.

Leave a Reply