What does the idiom "in the act of" mean?

Are you using the idiom in the act of but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the in the act of idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "in the act of"


The phrase ‘in the act of’ is an idiom which means to be in the process of doing something. It is used to refer to ongoing activities or actions. It implies that the person or thing being referred to is in the middle of performing the action and has not yet finished it.


The phrase ‘in the act of’ has been in use since the 15th century. It comes from the Latin phrase ‘in actu’ which translates to ‘in the performance of’. In the past, it was often used to refer to theatrical performances or plays which were still in progress.


The phrase ‘in the act of’ is often used to refer to an action which is taking place right now or is still in progress. It is also used to talk about a specific situation which has not yet been completed or has not yet occurred. For example, if someone is ‘in the act of writing a book’, it implies that they are in the process of writing the book and have not yet finished it. It can also be used to refer to general activities or actions which are taking place, such as ‘in the act of living’ which implies that a person is living their life.

Example Sentences

  • The thief was caught in the act of stealing from the store.
  • John was in the act of making dinner when we arrived.
  • We were in the act of finishing the project when the deadline arrived.
  • I saw her in the act of trying to sneak out of the house.

The meanings of the words in the "in the act of" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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