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)
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).
@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 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?
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?
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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".
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
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.