The hybrid Euler–Lagrange (HEL) description of fluid mechanics, pioneered largely by Andrews & McIntyre (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 89, 1978, pp. 609–646), has had to face the fact, in common with all Lagrangian descriptions of fluid motion, that the variables used do not describe conditions at the coordinate x, upon which they depend, but conditions elsewhere at some displaced position xL(x, t) = x + ξ(x, t), generally dependent on time t. To address this issue, we employ ‘Lie dragging’ techniques of general tensor calculus to extend a method introduced by Moffatt (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 166, 1986, pp. 359–378) in the fluid dynamic context, whereby the point x is dragged to xL(x, t) by a ‘fictitious steady flow’ η*(x, t) in a unit of ‘fictitious time’. Whereas ξ(x, t) is a Lagrangian concept intimately linked to the location xL(x, t), the ‘dragging velocity’ η*(x, t) has an essentially Eulerian character, because it describes the fictitious velocity at x itself. For the case of constant-density fluids, we show, using solenoidal η*(x, t) instead of solenoidal ξ(x, t), how the HEL theory can be cast into Eulerian form. A useful aspect of this Eulerian development is that the mean flow itself remains solenoidal, a feature that traditional HEL theories lack. Our method realizes the objective sought by Holm (Physica D, vol. 170, 2002, pp. 253–286) in his derivation of the Navier–Stokes–α equation, which is the basis of one of the methods currently employed to represent the sub-grid scales in large-eddy simulations. His derivation, based on expansion to second order in ξ, contained an error which, when corrected, implied a violation of Kelvin's theorem on the constancy of circulation in inviscid incompressible fluid. We show that this is rectified when the expansion is in η* rather than ξ, Kelvin's theorem then being satisfied to all orders for which the expansion converges. We discuss the implications of our approach using η* for the Navier–Stokes–α theory.