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"Je venais de recevoir votre lettre."

Translation:I had just received your letter.

February 8, 2013



I thought it was "I came to receive your letter"


That would be poor english - a bit clunky. I tried the literal translation as well and was wrong.


It's legitimate English. Just not sure why it's wrong.


Because it does not translate the French.

"venir de + infinitive" does not mean that there is any movement, this is the construction of near past (I (have) just received)

Similarly, "aller + infinitive" does not mean you are going anywhere, it is the construction of near future (I am going to receive)


I thought near past and near future used the present tense stll. Dont understand the tenses at all. Thanks for your explaination..still confused.


In the past, I had just received your letter.


The potential translation tip is wrong then. One of the options is "was coming".


In isolation, "je venais" means "I was coming" or "I used to come". Again "venir de + infinitive" is the expression of a near past:

  • Je viens de recevoir ta lettre = I (have) just received your letter
  • Je venais de recevoir ta lettre (quand le téléphone a sonné) = I had just received your letter (when the phone rang).


So could you say "I have just come to receive your letter"?


No, because what you propose is about a movement:

I have just come to receive your letter = je viens d'arriver pour recevoir votre/ta lettre.


@Hz07h - Anyway, you will hear "I had (just) come to do(ing) something, when XYZ happened..." more often than "I have come to doing...". I am virtually certain I have never heard either version of this construction in speech, although I have read it in novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. I am most curious to know where you are that you hear it.


In English too, "to come to do something" does not neccessarily propose movement, and can be used in a similar way as the French "venir de".

E.g. I had just come to wash(ing) my clothes when the doorbell rang.

This implies that you had not long been washing the clothes when the doorbell rang. Not that you had moved anywhere.

I think that it is especially clear when -ing is added, thay there is no implication of movement.

The only thing is, this use of "to come (to do something)" seems to be used more often with "had". (Is this example the pluperfect or even the conditional perhaps? Sorry, I'm bad at identifying the formal tense.)

Anyway, you will hear "I had (just) come to do(ing) something, when XYZ happened..." more often than "I have come to doing...".

But back to the main point. "To come to" can certainly be used in a similar way to "venir de", i.e without implying any movement.


"I came to receive your letter" is archaic English, meaning "I had (just) received your letter." "Came to" was figurative, without actual movement.


My interpretation (which may be wrong): "Je viens de recevoir votre lettre." - I (have) just received your letter. "Je venais de recevoir votre lettre." - I had just received your letter.


"I had just received..." was accepted.


Why is it in imparfait and not passé composé? I would understand if there was a second part of the sentence like "Je venais de recevoir votre lettre quand tu m'as appelé."


The construction "venir de" can only be used in the present or the imparfait.


Yeah, this actually seems more like "I was just receiving your letter" now that you mention it.


I understand that "Je viens de.... (insert infinitive verb)" means that you had just finished doing something. So, as the others have mentioned, why is the imparfait necessary if the expression already means that an action has just recently been accomplished?
If it changes the meaning to "I HAD just received your letter" then that should have been made more clear in the translation of the sentence, yes?


The imparfait is necessary because the action is in the past.

  • je viens de prendre mon petit déjeuner = it happened a few minutes ago

  • hier, je venais de prendre mon petit déjeuner quand j'ai entendu... = it happened yesterday, a few minutes before I heard....


Everybody seems to be missing each other's point here.

What (I think) we agree on:

je viens de... = I have just...

je venais de... = I had just...

On no occasion that I am aware of, will you translate "je venais de..." with "I have just...". Always "I had just..."

Where I think we're getting confused: DL translates "je venais de..." with "I just..." No auxiliary.

So the question is: does "I just..." imply "I have just...", "I had just...", or either?

I feel it's only "I have just..." (i.e., only "je viens de..."), which would make DL's translation wrong. What do others say?


As a true French i say that you are right.


Thanks! For those who may be a bit perplexed, the translation Duo gave six years ago was "I just received your letter", which was incorrect and confusing a lot of folks.


DianaM you are very welcome. I trust that by now you have advanced in your French but you are welcome to ask at any time. You will find me at the Swedish tree. Happy New Year. Eva .


then would you ever use "je viens de..." since the construction would seem to indicate that everything you used it for would necessarily always be in the past?

is imparfait and passe compose always required with "viens de..." ?


That is why "venir de + inf" is called "immediate/recent past", like "aller + inf" is the "immediate/near future".

They both use a present tense to express an action just finished or on the verge of happening:

  • je viens de rater mon train (I have just missed my train)

  • je vais rater mon train (I am going to miss my train)


Thanks, as usual. Does the inclusion of "juste" add anything to the meaning?


Only emphasis on the short time elapsed, no change in the meaning.


aaaaaah! a lightbulb just went on. thanks!


You are SO SO good at this, Mr Sitesurf!


Thanks for all your help on this page, Sitesurf!


So it still seems like this should be translated "I HAD just received." "I just received" and "I have just received" mean the same thing (as one another, that is) in English, and in French either (of these last two) would be "Je viens de..." Yes? No?


Near past is relative:

In present, "I (have) just received a letter" (je viens de recevoir ta lettre) can be a matter of a few hours with now as a point of reference (at the time I speak).

  • meaning: I received your letter a few hours ago = j'ai reçu ta lettre il y a quelques heures.

In past, "I had just received a letter" can also be a matter of a few hours, but with a point of reference in the past (at the time when my story took place).

  • meaning: (yesterday/10 years ago) just after the delivery of your letter, something happened = (hier/il y a 10 ans) juste après la livraison de ta lettre, quelque chose est arrivé.


I STRONGLY suggest reading previous posts before posting!!!! How many times does the same question need to be answered??? I truly appreciate the many gems of wisdom in these discussions but the repetition becomes very frustrating!


"I just had received your letter" refusé... Why?


"I just had received" sounds peculiar, or, at best, somewhat antique to my ear. I don't find it surprising that Duo does not have it on its list of correct answers.


It is antique and we only use it in romans!


why is it past tense?


It is past tense in both languages...


But in French it is Je viens de.. usually. I have just recieved. What changed with venais?


"venais" is the preterit (imparfait) : je venais, tu venais, il/elle/on venait, nous venions, vous veniez, ils/elles venaient.


I know wht it is, I just dont understand wht changes with it? Both je venais de recevoir votre lettre and je viens de recevoir votre lettre means the same: i have just recieved your letter?


No, I HAD just received your letter - in the past


No in english we say "I have just received..."


it depends on the context though, doesn't it. you can say e.g. on that momentous day, i had just received the letter and then blah blah blah... Do you agree?


In English you can use the preterite or the perfect with almost exactly the same meaning ("I just received" vs. "I have just received")

"I had just received" is an example of the pluperfect, which is a tense used when you are describing a past event that had already happened in your chosen timeframe.


Yes, pluperfect is sometimes described as the "past of the past" tense. I had received the letter further back in the past than some other past action or event.

In this case, venais de means I received the letter "just before" something else happened.


This is the 3th time in a row I had problems with the correct order of "just" and "had". I always think it's "just had" and Duo the couchette folle always narks this wrong. I hope someone knows if this is decent English or not?


Do you mean that you put "I just had received" instead of "I had just received"? The first version might not be entirely wrong, but it is at best very antique.
And it is hardly surprising that Duo does not have it on its list of correct answers.


Why oh why did I hear "toilette?"


I suspect this is rather idiomatic. Literal trans of "venir" does not work


Venir does mean "to come" but "venir de" will always connote immediacy of an action, which is why the translation is "I had just received your letter". As you can see, "venir de..." loosely translates to "to have just..."; to have just done something very recently, almost immediately

Je viens de rentrer = I just came home.

Je venais de finir mes devoirs = I had just finished my homework.

"Venir de" always refers to the past, but present conjugation is closer to the present than the imperfect. The imperfect is often used as a marker of an action right before another one; "Je venais de finir mes devoirs quand tu es rentré".

It's not idiomatic, it's the French way of marking an immediate action in reference of the timeframe you are discussing (e.g. near-present or retelling a past event). And honestly, a lot of literal translations never work, especially when the languages don't have the same root. French comes from Latin, English is (mainly) Germanic. Just something to keep in mind when doing any translation exercises; literal translation isn't always the best, you have to make sure it fits in the language, and sometimes even, culture.

Traduire, c'est trahir!


As a true French i can assure you that you are right!


"Received" a letter instead of "got a letter"? This is getting ridiculous!


I am not entirely sure what you mean, but I'm going to guess that you answered with "got" and it was not accepted. I can only say that I never understand why people feel some resistance to a perfectly obvious and functional direct translation. "Recevoir" = "receive". Why change it?

Sure, sometimes a direct translation is utter nonsense and must be adapted. And, if we had context, which we don't because this isn't storytelling, maybe the more colloquial "got" would be a better choice. But this is just language practice. There are no points for creativity.




Mais bien sûr, il y avait un doute?


Mais non! Pas du tout! Non! Tu as tout à fait raison. "On affaiblit tout ce qu'on exagère"? En pratique cela n'est pas le cas.


Classism in language is rude, as well as other things. Even speakers of RP should know this.


Your statement is right but I don't think it's relevant here. if someone's vocabulary is limited to 1000 words, it's going to be hard to learn a new language whatever the supposed social class.


Touchy, ain't we? This reply confirms the point. I rest my case.


Classism is not elitism. Is simply proper and clear for the meaning and it is practical. Everybody is free to speak and learn in the way one likes!


I am not at all sure what this discussion has to do with class at all. I assume this remark is directed at me, but I don't see that anything I said relates to class. The only objection I voiced to "got" was that it was, in my view, an unnecessary variation on the direct translation. Perhaps you can enlarge on your remarks?


If your answer was "I had just got a letter", perhaps DL didn't mark you down for choosing the verb "get", but marked the English conjugation as incorrect. I think some anglophone countries would be inclined to say "I had gotten" instead of "I had got", but nevertheless, I think both should be accepted.

Also, the French says "votre letter" so it's not any random letter, you would have had to translate it as "your letter".

"I had just got(ten) your letter".


Had and have. such a big difference!


Not sure if you are being sarcastic here, but yes, there is a clear difference.


Of course there is !


I got it wrong: "I just received …", but sneakily it was accepted as a typo of "I'd just received …"!!!


Haha, a small payback for the times Duo marked a typo as an error.


Where does the "just" come from?


It's what this structure means. When you want to say something occurred in the immediate past, you use "venir de (infinitive verb)".

"I just ate" or "I have just eaten" - "je viens de manger" We are talking about something that happened moments ago very recently.

"I had just eaten (when my dog barked)" - "je venais de manger (quand mon chien a aboyé)". We are talking about something that happened moments very recently before some other event in the past.

Edited because I was probably too narrow in my time frame - Ha


Great indeed! Bravo!


No one says i had just received. I just received or i have just received


If I were speaking to you about something that happened in the past (before now, but shortly after I received your letter), I would most certainly say, "When that thing happened, I had just received your letter..."


Seriously, read the prior posts please!!!!!


Oh my gosh, can we have a moratorium on "No one says", please? It seems like every time I see that phrase, it is followed by something I say frequently. Sigh.


How do you like this one: "On affaiblit tout ce qu'on exagère"?


Sigh away all you want. While daily use of the plusperfect in English has gone down a whole lot in my lifetime, there is a big difference between learning how to be fluent in a foreign language and learning R.P. English. For those of us who use Duo to learn basic French grammar and speech, we have to keep in mind the goal--and leave the snark behind.


I truly do not see how my objecting to being characterized as "no one" qualifies as snark.

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