How to Use the French Expression 'Être en Train de'

Tennis player serving
David Madison / Getty Images

The French expression être en train de (pronounced eh tra(n) treh(n) deu) means "to be in the process of" or "to be doing." This little phrase when combined with an infinitive is the equivalent of the English present progressive, which French lacks.

Like Present Progressive

Normally, one would 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 ongoing, continuous nature of a current action in French, use the expression être en train de with an infinitive denoting the action. For example:

   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 if you need to stress the fact that the action was continuing, use être en train de. For example:

   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.


The expression être en cours de has a similar meaning, but it is passive and usually followed by a noun:

La maison est en cours d'aménagement > the house is being renovated.

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.

Expressions and Use

Il est en train de manger. >

He's eating.

se voir en train de faire quelque chose >

to picture someone doing something

surprendre quelqu'un en train de faire
quelque chose >

to catch someone doing something

se voir en train de faire quelque chose >

to see someone doing something

Il est en train de la draguer. >

He's trying to pick her up.

L'eau est en train de chauffer. >

The kettle's on. / The water's heating.

en train de faire quelque chose >

être en train de changer >

être en train de faire quelque
chose >

in the act of doing something

to be undergoing change

to be in the middle of doing something

Additional Resources 

Expressions with être
Expressions with en

Expressions with de

Most common French phrases