How do you say "I was being/having" in French? As in "I was being killed" or "I was being bullied" or "I was having a great time" or "I was having a drink" Is there a certain tense to this? Or do the French not use this sort of structure at all?

  • Often, in French, for some things like I was being, you can use, je me faisais [past participle of verb], for example. It depends on the thing you want to express: se faire + past participle is often used. A l'école, je me faisais harcelé tout le temps. At school, I used to be bullied all the time or I was always being bullied.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:57
  • Chaplin, a way to have researched this on your own, for the record, would be to have googled English conjugation of any verb and looked for "was *ing", which would tell you it was past progressive. Then just search past progressive French. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 21:21
  • Lambie: "je me faisais harceler", pas "harcelé". -> "Je me faisais [infinitive of the verb] is the correct form here. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 8:36

2 Answers 2

  • If the context makes it clear that you are not talking about a habit but about something you were doing in a precise instant, you use the imparfait:

I was having a good time -> Je passais un bon moment.

This morning I was having a drink when... -> Ce matin, je buvais (une boisson), quand...

(as "boire" contains already the idea of drinking, you don't have to repeat it by "boisson", however if you want to insist on it you can)

Just when I was being bullied, the teacher arrived -> Au moment précis où je me faisais brimer, le professeur arriva. / A l'instant où on me brimait, le professeur arriva.

(Passive should be avoided in French)

  • If there is a risk of ambiguity, you can be more precise with the use of "en train de":

I was having a great time -> J'étais en train de passer un moment formidable

  • 2
    "Juste quand je me faisais brimer" ne sonne pas du tout naturel. On n'utilise pas "juste" comme ça en français, et le verbe "brimer" est très peu usité... J'aurais dit "Le professeur est arrivé pendant qu'on s'en prenait à moi / qu'on me harcelait".
    – N.I.
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:25
  • J'admet que pour "Juste" c'est une mauvaise formulation, réponse éditée. Par contre "brimer" est tout à fait correct en français. Peut-être un peu moins utilisé que "harceler" mais plus proche du sens de "to bully". Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:48
  • Je n'ai pas dit que "brimer" n'est pas correct, j'ai dit que c'était un mot très peu usité. Je pense ne jamais l'avoir entendu à l'oral ou presque.
    – N.I.
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:56

In french, continuous tenses are translated by "être en train de", so your examples become:

  1. J'étais en train de me faire tuer
  2. J'étais en train de me faire intimider
  3. J'étais en train de passer un merveilleux moment

Note that number 3 is very different from number 1 and 2. In 1 and 2, it is a passive form, so in french, you could also say :

On était en train de me tuer
On était en train de m'intimider

  • Avec passer on peut simplifier : "Je passais un merveilleux moment"
    – Law29
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:56
  • @Law29 ce qui m'embête avec l'imparfait, c'est qu'il correspond très bien au prétérit, or ici, la phrase d'origine n'est pas au prétérit, donc je sais pas si on peut vraiment prendre ce raccourcit...
    – Random
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 20:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.