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When we want to expresss that something is in progress, we can use the progressive form:

勉強している

studying

But another way of expressing a progressing action is by adding 中 to the noun:

仕事中

working

I want to know the difference between these two. Can I say 勉強中 or 仕事している to achieve the same meaning? If I can't, is there a pattern to this? I mean like what kind of nouns can I add 中 to?

I know that 勉強している is a verb while 仕事中 is an adverb but I don't care about the part of speech. I'm only considering it as a standalone word right now.

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2 Answers 2

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To me, there is no big difference between 勉強しています and 勉強中です. It is just personal preference. [中]{ちゅう} can create idioms when combined with other nouns such as [工事中]{こうじちゅう} which means under construction / repair and you should note that it is a noun, not an adverb.

[中]{ちゅう} means middle. If you are in the middle of something, you are doing something. Therefore, 私は勉強中です is translated to

I am in the middle of studying. / I am studying.

If you use [中]{ちゅう}, you can make the sentence more concise, but you have to note that it can't be used with all Japanese nouns.

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You can say 勉強中 or 仕事している. When the Japanese say a short phrase like 勉強している, it's frequently shortened as 勉強してる in a colloquial manner. Therefore, 仕事してる is more natural than 仕事している when you are asked by someone on a phone, etc.

○○中 is a very productive way to coin new words. 食事中, 旅行中, and 入院中 are a few examples of very common expressions of this type.

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    I don't think you really answered the question of what the difference between the two is.
    – Kurausukun
    Nov 3, 2016 at 4:52

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