Saber and Conocer. If you go to Google Translate right now and type each of these words, you will see that they both translate to “to know” in English.
Even though both of them translate the same way, they are used in different contexts and are not interchangeable.
This is why they trip up many people that are trying to learn Spanish.
They cause a lot of problems for students that aren’t Native Spanish speakers.
So in today’s article, we will cover the differences between saber and conocer so that you can use them correctly.
In this article, you’ll learn when you should use one over the other…
And we will review some basic conjugations for both saber and conocer…
Let’s take a look at the true meaning of each of these verbs.
We will start with the verb saber, since it is the most common.
Think of “saber” as the real “to know” in English.
The majority of time when you are referring to “knowing” something in English, you would be using the verb saber.
So you should use saber when talking about facts, information, and learned skills.
Here are a few examples demonstrating the verb saber for explaining the knowledge of facts:
(Note: When using saber to talk about facts, often times it will be followed my words like por qué (why), que (that), qué (what), quién (who), dónde (where), cuándo (when), and cuál (which).
Next, let’s look at some examples of saber being used to explain knowledge of information:
Lastly, let’s look at a few examples of saber being used to refer to the knowledge of skills:
Notice how immediately after we use saber, we use the verb that demonstrates the skills.
One mistake I see a lot of students make is that they want to put the word “cómo” which means “like” after the verb saber.
So they want to say, “yo sé cómo tocar la guitarra.”
That’s because in English, we always say, “I know how to do this, I know how to do that,” but in Spanish you don’t use cómo. You just put the verb demonstrating the skill after using saber.
Ex: “Yo sé cómo tocar la guitarra.”
Now let’s move on to the verb conocer.
Conocer means: to meet, to be acquainted/familiar with, and to have been to.
It is used to express knowledge or familiarity with people, places, and things.
So, for example if you say that you know someone. In Spanish, you would use conocer to imply that you are familiar with them.
Let me show you a few examples of how you would use this when referring to the knowledge of/being familiar with people.
Notice here that in between conocer and the “person” we are using “a.”
Some people like to call this the “personal a.”
The “a” is only used when referring to people.
This is important to remember because you will see how it’s different in the next examples when we are referring to knowledge of places and things.
Again, notice how here we remove the “a” when referring to places and you will see the same thing happen in the next example when referring to things.
The last use of conocer is to describe your knowledge of things, for example:
I won’t waste your time looking at every conjugation for each of the verbs…
But let’s look at a few of the most popular conjugations for both saber and conocer.
|él, ella, usted||sabe||supo||sabía||sabrá|
|ellos, ellas, uds.||saben||supieron||sabían||sabrán|
|él, ella, usted||conoce||conoció||conocía||conocerá|
|ellos, ellas, uds.||conocen||conocieron||conocían||conocerán|
Remember you should use “saber” for “to know.”
And “conocer” for “to be familiar with, to meet, and to have been to.”
You use saber for facts, information, and talking about learned skills.
And conocer when you meet or are familiar with people, places or things.
The more you consume comprehensible in Spanish the more this stuff will become natural, so don’t sweat it.
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