Spanish The Verbs "to know"

Overview

Saber and conocer both mean "to know" but they are not interchangeable. They not only mean different things… whichever one you pick depends entirely on the context.

The Spanish verbs meaning TO KNOW in the Present Tense

know how to cook Spaghetti. I know Italian. I know my friend’s parents who are from Italy.
In English we can say all three of these sentences and use the same word: KNOW.

However, in Spanish we have two verbs that mean “to know”. The verbs we use to say “to know” in Spanish are SABER and CONOCER. Continue reading this lesson to learn how to choose between using SABER and CONOCER.

WHEN TO USE SABERWHEN TO USE CONOCER
When expressing knowledge of informationWhen expressing knowledge/familiarity of a person/place
When expressing knowledge of an ability or skillWhen expressing knowledge/familiarity of a thing
SABER ExamplesCONOCER Examples
I know how to swim. Yo sé nadar.   We know that the president lives in Washington, DC. Sabemos que el presidente vive en Washington, DC. **Note: the word “que” is used to express “that” and is almost always used to express information.   Did you know that it’s already 12:00? ¿Sabes que ya son las 12:00?My father is very familiar with Atlanta. Mi padre conoce bien Atlanta, GA.   Do you know Samuel? ¿Conoces a Samuel? **NOTE: the personal “a” must be used with the verb conocer before naming a person.   I know a great book that you would like. Yo conozco un libro que te gustaría.

Now that we know when to use these verbs, let’s be sure we know how to conjugate them. They are both regular verbs in the present tense except for their IRREGULAR YO FORM CONJUGATIONS.

SABER

*SéSabemos
SabesSabéis
SabeSaben

CONOCER

*ConozcoConocemos
ConocesConocéis
ConoceConocen

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.