The French Verbs "To Know"

Beginner French - Level A2

Overview
Savoir and connaître both mean "to know." But they mean "to know" in very different ways: savoir relates more to things and connaître relates more to people, although there is an overlap with both verbs. 
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French The Verbs "to know"

Savoir and Connaître

The verbs savoir and connaître both mean “to know” in French. As we’ve learned in several other modules, we learn to conjugate irregular verbs that share similar conjugation patterns. In this case, we are learning how to conjugate these two verbs to learn in what contexts we use them being that they have the same meaning. Below are the conjugation charts of both savoir and connaître.

Subject Pronoun

Connaître

Je

connais

Tu

connais

*Il/Elle/On

connaît

Nous

connaissons

Vous

connaissez

Ils/Elles

connaissent

Past Participle

connu

Future Stem

connaîtr-

 

Subject Pronoun

Savoir

Je

sais

Tu

sais

Il/Elle/On

sait

Nous

savons

Vous

savez

Ils/Elles

savent

Past Participle

su

*Future Stem

saur-

 

*The asterisk indicates unpredictable changes with spelling. In the conjugation chart of savoir the future tense stem is unique and does not follow the traditional, regular verb pattern of having its infinitive as the stem. In the conjugation chart for connaître, notice the circumflex accent (^) that is present in its infinitive and the third person singular conjugation.

When to Use Each Verb 
As we know, both verbs mean “to know.” However, they are not interchangeable.
Use Savoir When:
  • You know a fact, piece of information, or data.
Je sais la vérité.                                              I know the truth.
Nous ne savons pas son nom.                         We don’t know his name.
 
  • You know how to do something (savoir + verb infinitive)
 
            On sait parler français.                                   We know how to speak French.
            Vous ne savez pas conduire.                           You don’t know how to drive.  
Use Connaître When:
  • You want to express familiarity of people, places, or work
                                   
                        Connais-tu Michelle ?                                    Do you know Michelle ?
                        Je connais la route.                                         I am familiar with the route.
                        Elles connaissent bien les boîtes de nuit.        They know the nightclubs well.
Savoir and Connaître in the Passé Composé.
When used in the past tense, these verbs do not mean “knew.” The past tense of savoir means “found out” and the past tense of connaître means “met (someone for the first time).”
The past participle of savoir is su.      →         Jai su le sens du mot.
                                                                        I found out the meaning of the word.
 
The past participle of connaître is connu. Ils ont connu leur voisin aujourd'hui.
They met their neighbor today.
 
Additional Examples:
Elle a connu un nouvel ami.                          
She met a new friend.                                                
 
Je saurai le verdict demain matin.
I will know the verdict tomorrow morning.
 
Quand je regarderai une carte, je connaîtrai la bonne route.
When I look at a map, I will know the right route.
 
Nous avons su la date du concert.
We found out the date of the concert.
 
Sais-tu réparer lordinateur ?
Do you know how to repair the computer?
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Directions: Choose whether connaître or savoir is the correct verb based on the context of the sentence. Then, write why that verb satisfies the sentence.

 

  • Je _______ jouer de la trompette. (sais / connais )
  • _______-vous ces hommes de l’église? (Connaissez / Savez)
  • Elles ont ________ le directeur de leur université. (connu / su )
  • Tatianne ________ parler français après ce cours. (connaîtra / saura )
  • Tu ______ la réponse au numéro 5? (connaît / sait)

 

Answers and Translation:

 

  • sais / I know how to play the trumpet. → Savoir is used to know how to do something and it is followed by an infinitive (jouer).

 

  • Connaissez / Do you know these men from the church? → Connaître is used to express familiarity with people.

 

  • connu / They met the director of the university. → Connaître in the past tense means to meet for the first time.

 

  • saura / Tatianne will know how to speak French after this course. → Savoir is used to know how to do something and it is followed by an infinitive (parler).

 

  • sait / Do you know the response to number 5? → Savoir is used to know a fact like a specific response.

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