The suggested translations for "venait" are "came", "was coming", and "used to come". How do you know which one to use? I'd think they all have slight differences.
how on earth are we suposed to know if its plural or singular ( il venait / ils venaient)
You are not supposed to guess it. Both are pronounced the same way and the alternative "il" - "ils" should be accepted.
"from a distance" indicates that he came from a long distance.
Distance has a connotation of lengthiness, or being separated to the point where we are not physically or metaphorically (such as emotional distance) able to contact someone else.
Though in French, you probably mean the farthest of distances as possible, we can still get the idea that it is pretty far if "from a distance" is used within the sentence.
Either that or we're both lost in translation lol.
I wrote "he came from a distance" but it was marked as incorrect. The correct translation is apparently "he came from from a distance" (no joke). I've reported the error but it's still slightly annoying that it's marked as wrong due to there being a mistake in the translation.