How to say 'I', 'I am ...ing' in French

A common question that arises among beginners is how do you say I am going, I am working, I am waiting etc in French.

In English, you use "I" with a verb to indicate an action that you are carrying out. But usually, to describe an action you're carrying out at the time of speaking or at a particular time (as opposed to something you do in general), you don't usually use a "simple" verb. Instead, you usually use a form of the verb ending in -ing. For example:

I work hard
(refers to working in general)
I'm working
(refers to working at the moment)
I eat lots of pasta
(refers to the food you eat in general)
I'm eating
(refers to the fact that you are eating at the moment)
I play football at the weekend
(refers to a general habit)
I'm playing football this Sunday (refers to a specific action planned for the future)
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Words that can fill the gap in I am ...ing are verbs (roughly speaking, "action" words like play, go, work etc). The form of the verb ending in -ing is often callde the progressive or continuous form (though as we've seen, it is also the usual way of referring to a planned action in the future).

So, what is the equivalent of the progressive in French? How do you say I am working, I am going, I am playing etc in French?

It turns out that it's not so difficult, but you do need to learn about verbs in French. In French, the equivalent of I am ...ing is to use the word je followed by an appropriate form of the verb. Many verbs in French end in -er:

travailler to work
jouer to play
manger to eat
regarder to watch, look at
demander to ask
parler to speak, talk
donner to give
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This form ending in -er is called the infinitive. It is the most 'neutral' form of the verb, and doesn't describe who is doing the action or when they did it.

To find the right form to use in a sentence with je, you need to remove the -r:

travailler > je travaille I'm working
jouer > je joue I'm playing
regarder > je regarde I'm watching
parler > je parle I'm speaking
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Now, if you think about English verbs, you'll find that not all verbs follow the same pattern. So for example, English speakers say I went rather than I goed. And the same thing happens in French: not all verbs follow the same regular pattern.

As you learn more French, you'll get familiar with so-called irregular verbs. For now, here is how to say "I am ...ing" using a few common irregular verbs:

je vais > I'm going...
je prends > I'm taking...
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Next

Once you've understood the above, why not read the page on How to say going in French?

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.