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French grammar - The various uses of the verb arriver

The various uses of the verb arriver

The verb arriver is one of the most common French verbs. It is a regular -ER verb.

Besides the obvious for English speakers, it has a number of other meanings and uses.

It can mean 'to arrive' and as a verb of motion takes être in the passé composé.

It can mean 'to be coming' or 'to be on one's way'.

It can mean 'to happen' or 'to occur'.

-- This can either be with a person subject, often with an indirect pronoun - eg. 'it happened to me'.

-- Or it can be impersonal using il - 'it happened that..' in the sense that 'there was..'.

With the preposition à is means 'to reach', 'to achieve' or 'to get to' - both literally and figuratively.

With the preposition à plus an infinitive means 'to manage to do (something)' or 'to succeed in doing (something)'

The reflexive verb se passe can also be used to convey that something happens or takes place.

Nous arrivons bientôt à destination.
We are arriving at our destination soon.
Il est déjà arrivé.
He has already arrived.
Je suis arrivé à midi.
I arrived at noon.
Attends, j'arrive !
Wait, I am coming!
Tiens, il arrive.
Look, he is coming.
Le voici qui arrive.
Her he comes.
La voici qui arrive avec son fils.
Here she comes with her son.
L'eau arrive dans la maison par ces tuyaux.
The water comes into the house by these pipes.
C'est arrivé ce matin.
It happened this morning.
Les accidents arrivent à tout le monde.
Accidents happen to everyone.
Qu'est-ce qui arrive ?
What's happening?
Qu'est-ce qui est arrivé ?
What happened?
Qu'est-ce qui t'arrive ?
What's happening to you (familiar)?
Qu'est-ce qui t'est arrivé ?
What happened to you (familiar)?
Ce sont des choses qui arrivent.
These are the things that happen.
Ça m'est arrivé deux fois.
That happened to me two times.
Je t'aime quoi qu'il arrive.
I love you (familiar) whatever happens.
Il est arrivé un accident.
An accident happened.
Il arrive quelquefois que je me trompe.
It happens sometimes that I am wrong.

Or 'Sometimes I'm wrong.'

quelquefois means 'sometimes'

Elle est vite arrivée à la solution de l'énigme.
She quickly arrived at the solution to the riddle.
On arrive au sommet bientôt.
We are reaching the summit soon.
Comment êtes-vous arrivé à cette conclusion ?
How did you (formal, male, singular) reach that conclusion?
Je n'arrive pas à trouver les clés de la maison.
I can't manage to find the house keys.
Je suis enfin arrivé à lui parler.
I finally got to talk to him.
Nous sommes arrivés à le faire tout seuls.
We managed to do it on our own.
Il n'arrive pas à obtenir le permis.
He didn't manage to get the license.
Tu arrives ?
Did you (familiar) manage (to do it)?
Tu y arrives ?
Did you (familiar) manage to do it?

The preposition y is used for 'to it'. A lot more about 'y' in in a later topic.