Using the Spanish Verb ‘Venir’

‘To come’ is most common translation

Guatemala bus
Venimos en bus desde Antigua. (We came by bus from Antigua.).

John Barrie / Creative Commons.

Venir is a common Spanish verb with a variety of meanings. Fortunately, many of them can be translated using the English verb "to come," which also has numerous meanings.

Venir is a cousin of English "-vent" words such as "invent" and "convent" as well of "venue" and "venire" (a legal term).

Keep in mind that venir is conjugated irregularly, having forms such as vengo (I come) and vendrán (they will come).

Using Venir To Refer to Coming From a Place

Most commonly, venir is used to talk about coming to or arriving at a place:

  • Cuando yo vine a California fui a Disneylandia. (When I came to California, I went to Disneyland.)
  • Venimos en bus con un maestro y pagamos por nuestro transporte. (We came by bus with a teacher and paid for our own transportation.)
  • Tenía sólo un año cuando vino desde España. (He was only a year old when he came from Spain.)
  • ¡Ven aquí! (Come here!)
  • No vienen hasta las 14.30. (They aren't coming until 2:30 p.m.)

In context, venir can convey the idea of coming back or returning:

  • No vengas a mí. (Título de canción) (Don't come back to me. (song title))
  • Es importante que vengas temprano. (It's important you come back early.)

Using Venir To Point Out Qualities

Venir can mean "to include," "to be," or "to have," often in a way that can be translated by "to come":

  • El primer iPad no viene con webcam. (The first iPad doesn't come with (include) a webcam.)
  • Estas bicicletas vienen de Surinam. (These bicycles are (come) from Suriname.)
  • El único que viene con excusas eres tú. (The only one who comes with (has) excuses is you.)
  • Las servilletas vienen en distintos tamaños. (The napkins come (are) in different sizes.)
  • Viene en caja sellada. (It comes (is) in a sealed box.)

Especially when used with bien or mal, venir can be used to indicate suitability:

  • No ser muy famoso me viene bien. (Not being very famous is fine with me.)
  • A ningún país le viene mal la globalización. (Globalization doesn't serve any country poorly.)
  • Al libro le venía bien la promoción. (The promotion was good for the book.)

Using Venir With a Gerund

Venir can be used as an auxiliary verb with the gerund (also known as the present participle) to indicate a continuing action, often in an increasingly intense way.

  • Hace mucho tiempo que se viene hablando de la necesidad de una nueva constitución. (The need for a new constitution has been talked about and talked about for a long time.)
  • El presidente viene sufriendo derrota tras derrota. (The president continues to suffer defeat after defeat.)
  • El chofer del camión venía hablando por teléfono. (The truck driver kept on talking on a telephone.) 

Using Venirse

The reflexive form, venirse, like the standard form, can mean to come from a place. But it places more emphasis on where the thing or person has come from.

  • La rumba se vino de Miami. (The rumba came from Miami. "La rumba vino de Miami" might be translated the same way, but making the verb reflexive calls extra attention to Miami, perhaps because the fact of the sentence may be surprising.)
  • Los turistas se vienen de otros países. (The tourists are coming from other countries.)
  • Necesitaremos agua por qué nos venimos del desierto. (We will need water because we are coming from the desert.)

The reflexive can also suggest that the verb's action was sudden or unexpected:

  • Era lo primero que se vino a cabeza. (It was the first thing that came to mind.)
  • Otra hipótesis es que el puente se vino abajo por la fragilidad de sus pilares. (Another theory is that the bridge came down because of the fragility of its pillars.)
  • Los vientos se vinieron de un solo golpe. (The winds came suddenly in a single blow.)

Key Takeaways

  • Venir can usually be translated as "to come," whether it is used to mean coming from a place or to have a certain quality.
  • Venir can be used with gerunds to indicate continuous action.
  • The reflexive venirse can be used to emphasize the origins of where someone is coming from or to emphasize the suddenness of an action.