All About the Irregular French Verb 'Venir' ('to Come')

"Venir' is a very common, irregular verb that can denote the recent past

"Come on," she tells him.
"Come on," she tells him. Chev Wilkinson/Cultura Exclusive/Getty Images

Venir ("to come") is one of the most common verbs in the French language. Venir with de and an infinitive expresses the recent past, just as aller plus an infinitive expresses the near future. Its conjugation is very irregular and must be memorized in order to use the verb with fluency.

'Venir' ('To Come')

Venir means "to come" in most senses that "to come" is used in English.

  • Il vient à midi > He's coming at noon.
  • Veux-tu venir avec nous ? > Do you want to come with us?
  • Viens vite ! > Come (here) quickly!
  • Elle ne vient jamais aux réunions > She never comes to meetings.
  • Roger viendra me chercher. > Roger will come and get me.
  • Je suis venu m'excuser. > I've come to apologize.
  • Venez manger ! > Dinner's ready !
  • Venir voir quelqu'un > to come and see or to visit somebody / to visit with somebody (US)
  • Venir voir quelque chose > to come and see something
  • Tu l'as bien cherché, alors ne viens pas te plaindre ! > You asked for it, so don't come moaning to me about it !
  • Qu'est-ce que tu viens nous raconter / chanter là ? (familiar) > What on earth are you talking about ?

Expressions with 'Venir'

Venir is also used in many French expressions, some of which we use all the time:

  • D'où viens-tu ? > Where do you come from?
  • Je viens de Paris. > I'm from (I come from) Paris.
  • venir de faire quelque chose > to have just done something
  • Je viens de dîner. > I just had dinner. / I just ate.
  • Tu dois faire venir le médecin. > You have to send for the doctor.
  • Dans les années à venir... > In the years to come...
  • De là vient que... > The result (of that) is...
  • D'où vient que ... ? > How is it that ... ?
  • venir à  > to happen to, to come to, to resort to
    • Si les vivres venaient à manquer... > should the food run out, if the food were to run out...
    • Si j'en suis venu à voler, c'est que ... > I resorted to stealing because ...
    • Il vient peu de touristes en hiver. (impersonal use) > Few tourists come in winter.
    • Il me vient une idée. > I've got an idea.
    • ​Ils sont venus nombreux. > They came in droves.

    RECENT PAST

    Venir is commonly used to express the recent past, meaning one has just done something.

    This construction is formed with the conjugated venir + de + the infinitive of the action that has just occurred.

    • Je viens d'arriver. > I (have) just arrived.
    • Ils viennent de déjeuner. > They just ate lunch.
    • Nous venons de le faire. > We just did it.

    This is quite useful but can only apply to things you have just done. The recent past construction is similar in structure and concept to ​the near future, which consists of aller + an infinitive; this construction is also often used to replace the future tense.

    FRENCH VERBS ENDING IN 'VENIR'

    All French verbs that end in -venir and -tenir ("to hold") are conjugated in the same irregular way. However, the auxiliary of most -venir verbs is être (except those with an asterisk below), while the auxiliary of -tenir verbs is avoir.

    • advenir > to happen
    • circonvenir* > to circumvent, get around
    • contrevenir > to contravene
    • convenir > to suit, be suitable
    • devenir > to become
    • intervenir > to intervene
    • parvenir > to reach, achieve
    • prévenir* > to warn
    • provenir > to come from, be due to
    • revenir > to come back
    • se souvenir > to remember
    • subvenir* > to provide for
    • survenir > to occur, take place

    *These verbs take avoir as the auxiliary; the rest take être. 

    Conjugations

    You'll find the full conjugation of venir in all tenses elsewhere; for now, the present tense below demonstrates just how irregular venir is.

    Present Tense
    je viens
    tu viens
    il vient
    nous venons
    vous venez
    ils viennent

    PRONUNCIATION OF 'VENIR': FORMAL VERSUS MODERN  

    Since venir starts with a v, there is no elision.

    Note however that the present Indicative (je viens) rhymes with bien ("well"), whereas the simple past is pronounced exactly the same as vin ("wine").

    Vienne/s and viennent rhyme with italienne

    In modern French pronunciation, the middle e of venir tends to be glided like this: 

    • Vous venez sounds like "voo vné."
    • Je suis venue sounds like "je swee vnu."