In French, there is no equivalent tense for the English Continuous Past (I was doing, he was singing...).
In most cases, you can use L'Imparfait (Indicatif) for both :
- Simple Past : Je dormais souvent. = I slept often
- Continuous Past : Je dormais à cette heure-là. = I was sleeping at that time.
You can also use the expression "être en train de" in L'Imparfait.
How to use 'être en train de' for ongoing actions in L'Imparfait (Indicatif) in French
Now look at these examples:
Nous étions en train de dormir quand le téléphone a sonné.We were sleeping when the phone rang.
Tu étais en train de parler et Paul t'a interrompu.You were speaking and Paul interrupted you.
Eve était en train d'écouter de la musique.Eve was listening to music.
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).
The verb être
is in L'Imparfait (Indicatif)
to express the Continuous Past
Also see Expressing ongoing actions in the present in French with "être en train de"
Want to make sure your French sounds confident?
We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your
gaps and mistakes. Start your Brainmap today »