aller/venir

What’s the difference between aller and venir?

Telling the difference between the verbs aller and venir in French can be tricky at first. They both express movement, but choosing the right verb depends on the perspective of the speaker or the listener. Read on to learn when to use aller and when to use venir, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Aujourd’hui, les touristes sont allés visiter un joli château. Ils sont venus de loin pour voir cet endroit.

Ils y sont allés en bus. Maintenant, ils sont tous rentrés à l’hôtel.

Le guide vient leur parler de leur prochaine visite. Demain, ils iront voir les grands lacs.

The verbs aller and venir are easy to mix up, especially because their conjugation in the 1st person présent is so similar: je vais and je viens. Despite this, they have very different meanings:

aller

Aller is similar to the English verb go: it refers to movement or travel away from the speaker towards another location.

The verb aller (followed by a preposition, usually à) emphasises the destination.

Examples:
Je vais au cinéma ce soir.I’m going to the cinema tonight.
Mon oncle et ma tante vont au Sénégal cet été.My uncle and aunt are going to Senegal this summer.

We also use aller + infinitive to form the futur proche.

Example:
Demain, je vais m’inscrire au cours de yoga.Tomorrow, I’m going to sign up for a yoga class.

venir

Venir is similar to the English verb come: it refers to a movement towards the speaker that begins in a place away from the speaker.

Example:
Est-ce que tu veux venir dîner à la maison ?Do you want to come for dinner at my place?

Venir emphasises the starting point, and is often followed by the preposition de, which introduces the point of origin.

Examples:
Je viens du cours de yoga.I’m coming from my yoga class.
Je viens d’Italie.I come from Italy.
Italy is my country of origin

The verb venir can also introduce the idea of accompaniment, similar to the English come with. In this context, the emphasis is on the destination rather than the origin, and the verb is followed by the preposition à.

Examples:
On va se baigner, tu viens ?We’re going swimming, are you coming?
implied: are you coming with us?
Tu viens à la fête ce soir ?Are you coming to the party tonight?
implied: are you coming with us?

We can use venir de + infinitive to form the passé récent.

Example:
Le train vient de partir.The train has just left.

Compare

The meaning of a sentence is different depending on whether we use aller or venir. Take a look at the sentences below to understand the difference:

Example:
Tu vas à la fête ce soir ?Are you going to the party tonight?

There is no movement towards the speaker here, only towards the party location. We do not know if the speaker is attending the party; they are simply asking for information.

Tu viens à la fête ce soir ?Are you coming to the party tonight?

By using venir, the speaker implies that they will be at the party, because this verb expresses a movement from another point of origin towards the speaker.

To see the conjugations of aller and venir, go to our French Verb Conjugator. To learn about some more confusing verb pairs, check out our pages on parler/dire and voir/regarder.