The difference between VENIRE and ANDARE
For most English speakers, the verbs “go” and “come” are interchangeable or synonyms. Instead, in Italian, the verbs venire and andare are not interchangeable and have distinct meanings.
What does “venire” mean?
Venire means “to come,” and it’s an irregular verb of the 3rd group.
This is the conjugation of the present simple.
- io vengo
- tu vieni
- lui viene
- noi veniamo
- voi venite
- loro vengono
What does “andare” mean?
Andare means “to go,” and it’s an irregular verb of the first group. This is the conjugation of the present simple.
- io vado
- tu vai
- lui va
- noi andiamo
- voi andate
- loro vanno
Venire or Andare?
In Italian, the verb venire, which means to come, is much more common than in English. As a result, most English speakers use the verb vado or, more generally, the verb andare as a default. This will sound a little strange because the verb venire is required in many situations.
While the verb “to go” in English has a broader meaning that includes both the translations of “venire” and “andare,” it’s important to distinguish between the two in Italian.
Venire is not the same as andare.
- Andare refers to a physical movement from one location to another.
- Venire refers to the movement from one location to another, but only when the person with whom you’re speaking will be physically in the location where you’re going.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences.
Andare means going to a place.
- vado a Roma – I’m going to Rome
- vado in palestra – I’m going to the gym
- vado al mare – I’m going to the beach
- vado in centro – I’m going to the city center
Venire means to go to a place where the person who is listening or the person speaking (or both) will be at the place of arrival.
- vengo a Roma – I’m coming/going to Rome
- vengo in palestra – I’m coming/going to the gym
- vengo al mare – I’m coming/going to the beach
- vengo in centro – I’m coming/going to the city center
What’s the difference between these sentences?
Let’s look at a common mistake I hear in my classes.
One of my students says:
- Serena, sai, vado in Italia il mese prossimo – Serena, you know, I’m going to Italy next month!
This construction is wrong. Since I live in Italy, the student should use the verb venire. Why? Because she’s speaking to me and I live in Italy. When she comes, we’ll be in the same country.
- Serena, vengo in Italia il prossimo mese – Serena, you know, I’m coming to Italy next month!
This is a perfectly correct sentence.
Similarly, if I had to tell one of the many American students living in the United States that I’m going to visit their country, I’d say:
- Vengo negli Stati Uniti a Natale – I’m coming to the US
- Vado negli Stati Uniti (this would imply that the person I’m speaking to, doesn’t reside in the US)
Vieni a Cena? Another use of “venire”
Venire is also used when you want to tell someone to join you, for whatever reason.
In English, you could say something like this:
- Are you coming with me to…?
- Are you going with me to..?
But in Italian it’s better to say something like this:
- Vieni al cinema?
- Vieni al bar?
- Vieni al mare?
- Vieni a cena?
- Vieni in centro con me o vai con Patrizia? – Are you coming downtown with me or with Patrizia?
Da dove vieni? Vengo da…
Venire is frequently used in conjunction with the preposition “da” to denote provenance, much like the English verb to come from.
- Vengo da Parigi – I’m from Paris
- Queste olive vengono dall’Italia – these olives are Italian
- il treno viene da Napoli – the train comes from Naples
Common expressions with “venire”
Ultimately, venire appears in a number of expressions or chunks* that you can memorize and use in your Italian conversations.
- mi viene in mente or non mi viene in mente – it comes (or not) to mind my mind
- mi è venuta fame – I became hungry
- mi è venuto sonno – I became sleepy
- mi è venuta un’idea – I had an idea
- venire al dunque – to go straight to the point
- venire incontro a qualcuno – to reach a compromise with someone
*Chunks are recurring word combinations. It is easier to learn a language in chunks because all that is required is just to memorize the chunk and learn how to use it without having to go through the grammar.