SO let me see if I understand we use the imperfect of "aller" with the infinitive to mean "was about to ..." Is this an expression for just sortir or does this work with other infinitives? If "allait" was without "sortir", would it then mean "went"? "Il venait d'arriver." means "He had just arrived." but "il allait sortir." means "He was about to go out." WIll I ever remember all these expressions?
In English and in French, there are 2 extra tenses: near future and near past.
Both are built with verbal phrases:
- near future: I am going/about to + verb = je vais + infinitive
- near past: I just + past simple/present perfect = je viens (juste) de + infinitive
These also work in past with past perfect in English and imperfect in French:
- I was going/about to + verb = j'allais + infinitive
- I had just + past participle = je venais de + infinitive
- "elle allait sortir" = she was about to go out (near future in past time)
- "elle venait de sortir" = she had just gone out (near past in past time)
- elle allait sortir = elle était sur le point de sortir (=@on the verge of going out)
- elle venait de sortir = elle venait juste de sortir
(Though I suppose you could express that as "She was going out" in English, using the progressive to mean a near-future intention: "What's she up to tonight?" "Well she was going out, but then her son came down with a fever...." But presumably Duo wants to make sure you know the differences between different tenses.)