Do you know about the Spanish verbs: conocer and saber?



These very useful and common verbs can cause confusion because they both mean “to know”. However...

Saber is used in the context of knowing information, ideas or how to do something.

e.g., “Yo sé tocar la guitarra.” I know how to (I can) play the guitar

Conocer is used in the context of knowing a person or a place. Think of it as meaning “to be familiar with”.

e.g., “¿Conoces bien la ciudad?” Do you know the city well?

Formation

This is how they conjugate in the present tense. Both ‘yo’ forms are irregular.

Saber - to know

Yo sé I know

Tú sabes You know

Usted sabe You (formal) know

Él sabe He knows

Ella sabe She knows

Nosotros sabemos We (masc.) know

Nosotras sabemos We (fem.) know

Vosotros sabéis You (pl. masc.) know

Vosotras sabéis You (pl. fem.) know

Ustedes saben You (plural) know

Ellos saben They (masc.) know

Ellas saben They (fem.) know

Conocer to know

Yo conozco I know

Tú conoces You know

Usted conoce You (formal) know

Él conoce He knows

Ella conoce She knows

Nosotros conocemos We (masc.) know

Nosotras conocemos We (fem.) know

Vosotros conocéis You (pl. masc.) know

Vosotras conocéis You (pl. fem.) know

Ustedes conocen You (plural) know

Ellos conocen They (masc.) know

Ellas conocen They (fem.) know

Usage

SABER: To know – a piece of information or how to do something. It is therefore sometimes translated into English as “can” but

Por ejemplo:

1. ¿Sabes nadar? Do you know how to swim? / Can you swim?

2. Mi hijo sabe contar en ruso. My son can count in Russian.

3. Ellas no saben jugar al póker. They don’t know how to play poker

4. ¡No sé! I don’t know

CONOCER: To Know a Person, Place, or Thing

Conocer is used when the subject knows a particular person or place, as in, “Do you know Madrid very well?” or “Do you know Javier?”

It can also be used in the context of knowing a particular thing, such as, “I know this magazine. I used to read it on the way to work,” or “I know those shoes! I gave them to the charity shop last week!”

Por ejemplo:

Ellos conocen el barrio donde vive mi tía. They know the neighbourhood where my aunt lives.

Conozco este modelo, como casi lo compré anteriormente. I know this model, as I almost bought it previously.

No conozco al* profe de tu hija. I don't know your daughter’s teacher.


*don’t forget the personal a when referring to knowing a person


Knowing Places

Something to watch out for:

If someone asks you:

¿Conoces Catalonia?

…they probably want to know if you’ve been to the region at all. But, if you are asked:

¿Conoces Catalonia bien?

…they want to know whether you are familiar with the region, i.e., whether you know it well.

To meet

Conocer can also meet to meet (for the first time).

Conocí al cineasta personalmente cuando lo entrevisté.

I met the filmmaker in person when I interviewed him.

Related words and phrases

Conocer

Un conocido, una conocida an acquaintance

el conocimiento knowledge

reconocer recognise, admit

desconocer to be ignorant of

muy conocido very well known

Saber

sabio, sabia wise, learnéd

un sabidillo, una sabidilla a know-all

Señor Sabelotodo Mr Know-it-all

la sabiduría knowledge, wisdom

Que yo sepa* as far as I know

¡Quién sabe! Who knows! Maybe!

*this phrase requires the subjunctive



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