Saber and Conocer
Both “saber” and “conocer” mean “to know.” But
before we look at the difference, let’s look at the
conjugation of these two verbs, since both are
irregular in the first person singular.
If I ask you how to say, “I know,” you might not
know. But if I ask you how to say, “I don’t
know,” you probably remember that from high
school (if you had Spanish):
No sé.
Here’s the conjugation of saber:
sé
sabes
sabe
sabemos
sabéis
saben
And here’s the conjugation of conocer:
conozco
conoces
conoce
conocemos
conocéis
conocen
Note that only the first person singular form is
irregular.
Saber and conocer aren’t nearly as hard as ser and
estar.
“Conocer” means to know a person.
Conozco a tus padres. – I know your parents.
Conozco a Juan. – I know Juan.
Lo conozco. – I know him.
Conozco al médico. – I know the doctor.
What’s that pesky little “a” doing in there? We’ll get to
that in a minute.
“Conocer” also means to be familiar with a
place:
Conozco Atlanta. -- I’m familiar with Atlanta.
I know Atlanta.
Conozco el país. – I’m familiar with the country.
I know the country.
Conozco los jardines botánicos.– I’m familiar
with the botanical gardens.
I know the
botanical gardens.
“Saber” means to know information.
Sé la fecha. – I know the date.
Sé tu número de teléfono.– I know your phone number.
No sé si vienen. – I don’t know if they’re coming.
Sé que estudias mucho. – I know you study a lot.
Sé dónde vives. – I know where you live.
Sé quién es el presidente. -- I know who the president
is.
Warning, warning, warning!!!!!!!!!
Students tend to confuse
“I know who he is” – Sé quién es.
with
“I know him.” – Lo conozco.
There’s a big difference between
“I know who the U.S. president is”
and
“I know the U.S. president.”
One is information; the other is actually knowing the
person.
In summary:
“Conocer” means to know a person or be
familiar with a place.
“Saber” means to know information or to
know how to do something.
Remember that “a” that appeared with “conocer” sometimes?
Conozco a tus padres. – I know your parents.
Conozco a Juan. – I know Juan.
Conozco al médico. – I know the doctor.
Note that there’s no “a” in these sentences:
Conozco Atlanta. -- I’m familiar with Atlanta.
Conozco el país. – I’m familiar with the country.
Conozco los jardines botánicos.– I’m familiar with the
botanical gardens.
Whenever the direct object is a person, you get “a” in front of it. If it’s a thing
rather than a person, there’s no “a.” This happens not just with “conocer”
but with ANY verb, with the exception of “tener”:
Ves a tu hermano.
Ayudo a mis amigos.
Necesita a su madre.
Tengo una hermana.
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Saber and Conocer - Gordon State College