The Many Meanings of Arriver in French: Beyond Just “Arriving

You may think you have a good handle on the meaning of the French verb “arriver” – after all, it’s often translated as “to arrive” in English. But the truth is, this verb has a range of meanings that go beyond simply showing up at a particular place. In fact, depending on the context and the accompanying prepositions, arriver can take on a variety of shades of meaning, from “to happen” to “to be able to” and more. So if you’re a student of French, or simply a lover of the language and culture, it’s worth exploring the many facets of arriver and how it’s used in different contexts. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key meanings of arriver, and how they play out in the rich tapestry of French culture.

1. To arrive

As one of the most fundamental meanings of arriver, this verb is often used in the context of physical travel. For example, you might use arriver to describe arriving at the airport, train station, or even a specific location within a city.

Take the example sentence, “Je vais arriver à Paris demain matin.” Here, the speaker is conveying that they will physically reach the city of Paris in the morning. This usage of arriver is straightforward and easy to understand.

– La technologie de la réalité virtuelle est en train d’arriver sur le marché grand public.
– Virtual reality technology is arriving on the consumer market. 

– Les vaccins contre la COVID-19 ont finalement commencé à arriver en France.
– COVID-19 vaccines have finally started to arrive in France.

However, as we explore further, we begin to see that arriver can take on a variety of nuanced meanings that may not be immediately apparent. Let’s take a closer look.

2. To happen

Another common meaning of arriver is “to happen” or “to occur.” For example, “Qu’est-ce qui est arrivé ?” means “What happened?” or “What occurred?”

This usage of arriver can be a bit tricky for English speakers, as we tend to use different verbs for different types of events. In French, however, arriver is often used in a broad sense to encompass a wide range of happenings.

– Qu’est-ce qui est arrivé à Notre-Dame de Paris ?
– What happened to Notre-Dame de Paris?

– Il est arrivé quelque chose d’étrange sur la Tour Eiffel hier soir.
– Something strange happened on the Eiffel Tower last night.

3. To be able to

In some contexts, arriver can also mean “to be able to” or “to manage to.” For example, “Je n’arrive pas à comprendre les Français” means “I can’t manage to understand the French (people).”

This usage of arriver implies a certain degree of difficulty or challenge, and suggests that the person had to work hard or overcome obstacles in order to achieve the desired result.

– J’espère arriver à comprendre les règles du jeu de pétanque avant la fin de mes vacances en Provence.
– I hope to be able to understand the rules of the game of pétanque before the end of my vacation in Provence.

Overall, the many meanings of arriver demonstrate the richness and complexity of the French language and culture. By exploring the different nuances of this versatile verb, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the subtleties of the language and the ways in which it reflects the values and attitudes of its speakers.

If you’re a pre-intermediate learner of French looking to expand your knowledge of the language and culture, “French in Paris 2” can be a valuable resource. This book presents a fun and enjoyable approach to learning French, with a particular focus on the word “arriver” and its various meanings in different contexts. With clear explanations and plenty of practical examples, “French in Paris 2” is the perfect tool to help you take your French to the next level.

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