Meet the ‘Venir’ Family of Spanish Verbs

Prefixes expand meaning of everyday verb

Talca, Chile
Provengo de la ciudad de Talca en Chile. (I come from the city of Talca in Chile.).

RL GNZLZ / Creative Commons.

Usually meaning "to come," venir is one of the most common verbs in Spanish. Like many other verbs, venir can be combined with prefixes to expand its meaning.

As you can see from the examples below, many of the words formed by combining venir with a prefix are related to English words that end in "-vene." That's because the English verbs come from the Latin verb venire, which is also the source of venir.

Following are the most common verbs formed using the venir root along with examples of their use.

Avenir

Avenir typically means to reconcile, to get along, or to come to an agreement. It is frequently used in the reflexive form.

  • Nos avenimos a firmar la Carta de la Paz, un documento que debemos fortalecer. (We came together to sign the Peace Letter, a document we ought to strengthen.)
  • Tras largas negociaciones, los empresarios finalmente se avinieron con los sindicatos. (After lengthy negotiations, the business owners finally came to an agreement with the unions.)

Contravenir

Meanings of contravenir include to violate, to infringe, and to contravene.

  • Este tipo de medidas contravenerían el principio de libre circulación. (This kind of step violated the principle of free circulation.)
  • Los usuarios que usen las computadoras de la biblioteca no contravendrán las leyes sobre derechos de autor o marcas registrada. (Library computer uses will not violate the laws about copyright or trademarks.)

Convenir

Although convenir can sometimes refer to convening, it more often refers to being suitable or agreeing.

  • Los representantes convinieron en que debían esperar hasta recibir mas información. (The representatives agreed that they ought to wait until they receive more information.)
  • Espero que el Congreso convenga, tambien aprobando el artículo que se discute. (I hope that the Congress convenes, also approving the article under discussion.)

Devinir

Devenir is not related to the English verb "divine" but instead usually means to become or to happen.

  • Cuando la mente deviene quiescente, el soplo deviene controlado. (When the mind quiets down, breathing becomes controlled.)
  • No puedes devenir lo que no eres naturalmente. (You can't become what you naturally aren't.)

Intervenir

Intervenir can refer to intervening, but it can also have a weaker meaning that refers just to participating in something.

  • El Banco Central intervino cuando el tipo de cambio tocó $2,98. (The Central Bank intervened when the exchange rate reached $2.98.)
  • Los varones intervienen menos que las mujeres en el cuidado de los hijos. (The men participate less in the care of children than the women do.)

Prevenir

While prevenir often refers to preventing something, it can also refer to merely warning or even just expecting.

  • Ambas vacunas previnieron la diseminación cloacal del virus de influenza aviar. (Both vaccines prevented the sewage-connected dissemination of the bird flu virus.)
  • El gobierno no previno el desastre de Nueva Orleans. (The government did not anticipate the New Orleans disaster.)

Provenir

Provenir typically means to come from somewhere.

  • Provengo de la ciudad de Talca en Chile. (I come from the city of Talca in Chile.)
  • Como mi apellido indica, mi padre proviene de Alemania. (As my surname indicates, my father comes from Germany.)

Sobrevenir

Sobrevenir frequently refers to something coming or happening suddenly, although it can also refer to something that merely happens subsequent to something else.

  • En la madrugada sobrevino el terremoto. (The earthquake came suddenly in the dawn.)
  • Hay que identificar la probabilidad de que sobrevenga un tsunami. (It is necessary to determine the chance that a tsunami will occur.)

Subvenir

Subvenir is often translated as "to pay" or "to defray"; it typically refers to the payment for necessities.

  • El populismo pretende que el estado subvenga a toda necesidad social tengan las personas. (Populism hopes that the state will provide for every social necessity that people have.)
  • La madre subviene a todas las necesidades del niño. (The mother pays for all the child's needs.)

Conjugation of Verbs Based on Venir

All these verbs are conjugated in the same way as venir, which is irregular in nearly all its simple forms.

For example, this is how prevenir is conjugated in the indicative present tense: yo prevengo, tú previenes, usted/él/ella previene, nosotros/nosotras prevenimos, vosotros/vosotras venís, ellos/ellas previenen.