In this lesson, we’ll focus on the verb arriver, which has four different but equally common meanings. As you might guess, arriver is cognate with the English word “arrive,” which is the first meaning of the word:
On arrive au square de l’Opéra Louis Jouvet, que je trouve très joli aussi.
We arrive at the Opéra Louis Jouvet Square, which I also find very pretty.
Cap. 33, Mon Lieu Préféré: Place Édouard VII
Just as “arrive” doesn’t only refer to reaching a specific location (you can “arrive at” a solution, for example), arriver can also mean “to manage” or “succeed”:
On arrive enfin à se mettre d’accord.
We manage finally to come to an agreement.
Cap. 18, Rémy de Bores: Auteur
The expression y arriver specifically means “to make it” or “do it”:
Pour sortir des toilettes, c’est vraiment extrêmement étroit et avec le fauteuil, on y arrive....
To come out of the restroom, it’s really extremely narrow and you can do it with the wheelchair....
And if someone is waiting for you and you’re on your way, you can use arriver to let them know that you’re coming (or arriving):
Dépêche-toi, Michel, je suis en retard! -Oui, j’arrive!
Hurry up, Michel, I’m late! -Yes, I’m coming!
Car Ivan arrive; le cyclone progresse à trente kilomètres / heure.
Because Ivan is coming; the cyclone is moving at thirty kilometers per hour.
Cap. 11, Le Journal: La Martinique
The final meaning of arriver is “to happen.” In this sense, it is synonymous with the verb se passer:
Ce qui ne m’était pas arrivé depuis six ans
Which had not happened to me for six years
Qu’est-ce qui se passe?
There is also the expression il arrive que... (it happens that...), which is usually translated as “sometimes”:
Il arrive que les rêves se réalisent.
Sometimes dreams come true.
Note that il arrive que... takes the subjunctive.
So whether someone or something is arriving, succeeding, coming, or happening, you can cover a lot of ground with the verb arriver. See if you can come up with sentences for each of its meanings!