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zài
adv. in the process of, in the course of (indicating an action in progress)
Discussion of 在
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The adverbs 正, 在 or 正在 can be used prior to the predicate verb and the particle 呢 at the end of a sentence to indicate that the action is in progress. The action may take place either in the present, the past or the futureEither the adverb or the particle can be omitted, which leads us to these two basic patterns:

Pattern 1. Subject 正/在/正在 Verb (Object) (呢)。
E.g. 1a 昨天你打来电话的时候,我正忙着做饭呢。 [phr] Yesterday when you called, I was busy cooking.
E.g. 1b. 他们正忙活着整理行装。 [phr] They are busy packing up clothes for traveling.
E.g. 1c. 他在睡觉。 [phr] He is sleeping.
E.g. 1d. 孩子们正在街道上踢足球。 [phr] Children are playing football in the street.

Pattern 2. Subject (正/在/正在) Verb (Object) 呢。
E.g. 2a. 昨天你打来电话的时候,我忙着做饭呢。
E.g. 2b. 他们忙活着整理行装呢。
E.g. 2c. 他睡觉呢。
E.g. 2d. 孩子们在街道上踢足球呢。

The negative forms of the two patterns above are formed by adding 没 before the predicate verb.
Negative form: Subject 没 (在) Verb (Object) 。
E.g. 3a. 昨天你打来电话的时候,我没(在)忙着做饭。
E.g. 3b. 他们没(在)忙活着整理行装。
E.g. 3c. 他没(在)睡觉。
E.g. 3d. 孩子们没在街道上踢足球。
lisaC
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In this post, we discuss two adverbs: 正 and 在. They both indicate an action is in progress, but they are not entirely the same. There is a slight difference lies in the contexts where these two adverbs are used.
正 emphasise that when action A is in progress, action B is also in progress coincidentally at the same time (E.g. 1). 在 means an action is in progress in a certain time, or continues during a certain period of time (E.g.2).
E.g. 1 昨天你打来电话的时候,我正忙着做饭呢。 [phr] Yesterday when you called, I was busy cooking.
E.g. 2 他在睡觉。 [phr] He is sleeping.
Sometimes, without the context, we can use both 正 and 在 in one sentence. But of course there will be slight difference in the meaning of the sentence. Look at E.g. 3 below:
E.g. 3 他们正忙活着整理行装。 [phr] They are busy packing up clothes for traveling.
It is totally okay to say: 他们在忙活着整理行装。
lisaC
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