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Saber y Conocer

En España, hoy es domingo el 19 de noviembre de 2017.

baldo

2017-03-07 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

There are two verbs in Spanish which are frequently translated by the verb to know in English. In Spanish, however, they are not interchangeable and are used for very different purposes. The two verbs are saber and conocer.

Here are the conjugations of each in the present indicative:

Saber (to know a fact; how to do something)

Person Singular Plural
1st sabemos
2nd sabes sabéis
3rd sabe saben

Conocer (to be familiar with a place; to know a person)

Person Singular Plural
1st conozco conocemos
2nd conoces conocéis
3rd conoce conocen

Uses of saber

In common usage, saber is used for when you know a fact:

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2014-10-04 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
  • ¿Sabes que eres mi mejor amigo? (Do you know that you’re my best friend?)
  • ¿Sabes que mi coche es eléctrico? (Do you know that my car is electric?)
  • Sabemos que la fiesta es el viernes. (We know that the party is on Friday.)

When followed by an infinitive, it is used to state when someone knows how to do something:

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2015-03-20 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
  • Sabes cantar? (Do you know how to sing?)
  • Sé tocar el piano. (I know how to play the piano.)
  • ¿Sabéis cocinar arroz con pollo? (Do you all know how to cook chicken and rice?)

Uses of conocer and conocer a

Conocer might be better translated as to be familiar with, as in “Are you familiar with New York City?”, but often in English we simply say “Do you know New York City?”.

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2009-10-05 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
  • ¿Conoces esa canción? (Do you know that song?)
  • Ni concozo ese instrumento que estabas tocando. (I don’t even know that instrument you were playing.)
  • ¿Conoces el centro comercial de Rutland? (Do you know the mall in Rutland? / Are you familiar with the mall in Rutland?)

When followed by direct object that is a person (and including the requisite personal ‘a’), conocer is used for knowing a person:

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2005-05-28 – © Tute; Universal UClick
  • Últimatmente, conozco solo a hombres cuyo mayor mérito es el auto que tienen. (Lately, I only know men whose primary merit is the car they have.)
  • *Conoces a Miguel? (Do you know Miguel?)
  • Conoces al profesor Hernández? (Do you know Professor Hernández – Note that the personal ‘a’ does combine with el)

Saber in the preterite

Person Singular Plural
1st supe supimos
2nd supiste supisteis
3rd supo supieron

When used in the preterite, saber appears to change it’s meaning, but this is really based upon the fact that English uses a different verb for the beginning of knowing something: to find out.

  • Supe que el viernes es fiesta. (I found out that Friday is a holiday.)
  • *¿Solo supiste ayer que María es su hermana? (You only found out yesterday that María is his sister?)

Conocer in the preterite

Person Singular Plural
1st conocí conocimos
2nd conociste conocisteis
3rd conoció conocieron

Conocer also appears to change meaning when used in the preterite. In English, we use a different verb for the beginning of knowing someone: to meet.

  • Conocí a Roberto en la fiesta la semana pasada. (I met Roberto at the party last weekend.)
  • ¿Conoces a Miguel? Sí. Nos conocimos ayer. (Do you know Miguel? Yes. We met yesterday.)

Below are some additional samples of saber and conocer in use:


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