2

How can we express that an action is in the process of being done, besides using "en train de" as this doesn't always make sense.

For example, "people are dying, we need to do something".

Or, "there are crimes being committed against humanity".

3

This thoughtco.com link and this lawlessfrench.com link might answer your question.

So

French doesn't have a verb form equivalent to the present progressive. Normally, you just use the simple present in French (je parle) to express both the English simple present (I speak) and the present progressive (I am speaking).

When you want to insist on the current, ongoing nature of an action in French, you can use the expression être en train de[...]

I do believe you can use

Les gens meurent, il faut faire quelque chose.

as well to express

People are dying, we need to do something.

  • The problem is people who false think (not their fault) that just the present in French is not enough. Most times it i. – Lambie Mar 11 '17 at 1:19
1

As you said, one of the clearest way would be saying:

Les gens sont en train de mourir, nous devons faire quelque chose.

In french, we do not have a form only to exprim the "process of being done", generally we use the présent de l'indicatif:

Les gens meurent, nous devons agir.

  • Sometimes, to stress the fact that it is happening, English just as French would add “Right now, /En ce moment même, ” prior to “people are dying.../les gens meurent...”. – ﺪﺪﺪ Mar 10 '17 at 11:16

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