Spanish Grammar Guide

saber and conocer (e.g.: Sé quién es el profesor, lo conozco.)

An Overview of saber and conocer:

Spanish has two words for the English verb "to know": saber and conocer. To choose the appropriate one, pay attention to the word that follows. Saber means to know a fact or piece of information, while conocer means to know or be familiar with a person, place or thing. They are NOT interchangeable.

Saber

For the most part, saber (NOT conocer) is followed by a clause beginning with que, si ("to know that, if..."), an infinitive verb to indicate an ability, or any question word (qué, quién, cuándo, cómo, por qué, cuánto/a(s), cuál(es), dónde, etc.), e.g.:

  • Yo sé quién es el Primer Ministro de Canadá. ("I know who is the Prime Minister of Canada.")
  • Tú no sabes que tu hermana tiene planes para viajar a México el siguiente mes. ("You don't know that your sister has plans to go to Mexico next month.")
  • ¿Saben si las clases empiezan mañana? ("Do you know if classes begin tomorrow.")
  • Nosotros sabemos nadar bien. ("We know how to swim well.")
  • Él sabe por qué no hay nada en el refrigerador. ("He knows why there is nothing in the refrigerator.")

Saber can also be used before a noun or pronoun if it refers to something that has been learned, e.g.: Sé el poema a memoria. ("I know this poem by memory.")

In the preterite, saber means "to find out", e.g.: Ayer supe que se casaron Alejandro y Tania. ("Yesterday I found out that Alejandro and Tania got married.")

Conocer

On the other hand, conocer must be followed by a noun or pronoun, often referring to a person (in which case you must also add the personal a) or a place, e.g.:

  • conoces a María. ("You know María.")
  • Ella conoce un buen restaurante. ("She knows a good restaurant.")
  • Vosotros conocéis Buenos Aires. ("You know/are familiar with Buenos Aires.")
  • Yo conozco a tu hermano, pero él no me conoce a mí muy bien. ("I know your brother, but he doesn't know me very well.")
  • Nosotros conocemos el camino("We know/are familiar with the road.")

In the preteriteconocer means "to meet (for the first time)", e.g.: Yo te conocí a ti en Francia. ("I met you in France.")

One tip is that if you can replace the verb with "be certain", you should probably use saber, e.g.:

  • I am certain she will come. = Yo sé que ella vendrá.

If replacing the verb with "be certain" makes the sentence sound weird, then conocer is likely correct, e.g.:

  • I am certain your sister very well (sounds weird so use conocer...)
  • Yo conozco a tu hermana muy bien.

Remember that both verbs saber and conocer have irregular present tense yo forms, and conozco respectively. You can review the presentfuturepreteriteimperfectpresent subjunctive and past subunctive if you are unsure how to form these verbs.

Practice: write a story about someone you know who is able to do many things or knows a lot of different things, then check the story with SpanishChecker.com

 
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