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J'étais toujours le nez plongé dans les livres.

{instead of}: J'avais toujours le nez plongé dans les livres.

In English, you say "I was always a bookworm. = I always had my nose buried in the books."

So it’s tempting to apply the same structure and say "j'avais le nez plongé".

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    Why don't you tell us where you saw that? The context? être describes a state or state of mind. as in: être occuper, être mal à l'aise. In English, it's buried IN books, not the books. Why are you trying to understand French through English? Just wondering... – Lambie Nov 6 '16 at 19:03
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As a Frenchman I'd say that both are equivalent. I would not deduce a meaningful difference in hearing the former or the latter.

From a grammatical point of view, in the first sentence I would see "le nez plongé dans mes livres" as an adjective phrase, while in the second one, "le nez" is complement the "avoir" verb and the rest describes "le nez". Hence, we might say that the first one refers more to a general state description, and maybe even a metaphorical one, while the second one actually focuses on this nose and where it is, so is more literal.

But again, this is if I really try to find a difference at all costs.

  • There is however a strong difference. While both are indeed grammatically correct and semantically equivalent, "j'avais" is much more likely to be heard/read/used than "j'étais" in this expression. – jlliagre Nov 6 '16 at 23:37

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