"The children are writing a letter."

Translation:Les enfants sont en train d'écrire une lettre.

April 23, 2018

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What is the en train supposed to be??


"Être en train de + infinitive" technically means "to be in the process of Verb-ing".

This is the best attempt of the French language to express a continuous action since continuous tenses do not exist.

As such, "les enfants sont en train d'écrire une lettre" is the accurate translation for "the children are writing a letter".


Hi, Sitesurf. So does that then mean that translations of the French present indicative as English progressives are only approximations of the real intent? My French teacher told us that, for example, "je vais" could mean I go, I do go, or I am going. I guess I'm trying to picture the sense in which a native French speaker mentally interprets "je vais" as opposed to "je suis en train d'aller." It must depend on the context somehow?


The French present indicative is very versatile and context plays a major role in establishing which of "I go, I do go, I am going" is to be understood.

Also, the verb "aller" itself has a range of uses and meanings you have to distinguish in context :

With minimal or no explicit context:

  • Je vais bien = I am doing well.
  • Je vais à l'école = I go to school, I do go to school, I am going to school.
  • Je vais écrire une lettre = I am going to write a letter, I will write a letter.

With more context and translations not to the best possible English but what you should understand:

  • Cette année, je vais à l'école en bus = This year I go to school by bus
  • Tu ne vas pas à l'école cette année ? - Si, je vais à l'école du village. = Don't you go to school this year? - Yes, I do go to the village school.
  • Tu ne vas pas à l'école ? - Si, j'y vais = You don't go to school? - Yes, I do.
  • Je vais bien à l'école, mais je dois aller à la poste d'abord = I am going to school all right, but I need to go to the post office first.
  • Je vais à la poste pour envoyer ce colis = I am going to the post office in order to send this parcel.
  • Demain, je vais à l'école à pied = Tomorrow, I am going (I'll go) to school on foot.
  • Je vais changer de lunettes = I am going to change my eyeglasses.
  • Je vais aller chez le dentiste = I am going to go to the dentist.


Thank you very much, Sitesurf. You are a wealth of knowledge!


I agree, "en train de" does not sound French. Rather as an attempt to find a French expression for the way you have to express it in English, if you want to tell that is an ongoing action. Say I, for whom as well English as French are foreign languages.

Check out this from La conjugaison.fr::

A. L'emploi du présent de l'indicatif Ce temps exprime un fait ou une action qui se déroule au moment où nous nous exprimons. Exemples : - Où vas-tu? - Je pars à la plage. - Marc range ses affaires.

You do not say: "Où es tu en train d'aller" etc. But in English you would say " Where are you going?"


We will then agree to disagree. "Être en train de" is very common in French and it is used to describe what you are/were/will be doing at some point in time. It is more emphatic than a simple present tense and it is used for that purpose.


I did it all correct except contracting

"de écrire" to "d'écrire"

Is that an unforgivable mistake at this level?... or should it be treated as the more encouraging

"You are correct but pay attention to the accents"

kind of thing? So many contractions in French and so many accents.

Not sure that level of difficulty should be penalize yet for us French begginers.

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