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Conocer or Saber - which one means "to know" in Spanish?

In English we only have one verb to describe "to know".

In Spanish the equivalent of "to know" can be used with either " saber " or " conocer ".

Saber - Knowledge, Facts, and Skills

Let's begin with saber.

"Saber is mostly used to describe knowledge , information about facts , skills , or how to do something .

We use this verb to express that we, someone or something has information or knowledge of something. The two key words here are knowledge AND information .

Saber with each pronoun

Before we get into examples, let´s review the table of pronouns to make sure we know how to use the verb correctly.

Yo séI know
Tú sabesYou (informal) know
Usted sabeYou (formal) know
Él sabeHe knows
Ella sabeShe knows
Nosotros sabemosWe know
Ellos sabenThey (male) know
Ellas sabenThey (female) know
Ustedes sabenYou (plural, Latin America) know
Vosotros sabenYou (plural, Spain) know

Example sentences with Saber

Now we are ready to look at some examples:

¿Sabes cómo se llama el señor?

Do you know what the gentleman's name is? Here the person is asking for information. They need to know someone's name. Since it is information they want, we use the verb "saber".

Yo sé cuál es la respuesta número cinco del examen de matemáticas.

I know the answer to question number five of the math test. Again, the person is providing us with information and knowledge on a subject.

Ellos saben donde queda el restaurante.

They know where the restaurant is. Again, the sentence expresses someone having information and knowledge of a fact.

Nosotros sabemos jugar tennis.

The sentence is describing a skill.

Conocer - Knowing people, places, and things

Let's take a look at the verb "conocer".

Conocer is used to express familiarity or acquaintance with people , places and things .

It can also be used when you have a personal experience or have been to a particular place.

The keywords here are familiarity and acquaintance .

Conjugating conocer with pronouns

Once again, let's review the table of pronouns to make sure to use the verb correctly.

Yo conozcoI know
Tú conocesYou (informal) know
Usted conoceYou (formal) know
Él conoceHe knows
Ella conoceShe knows
Nosotros conocemosWe know
Ellos conocenThey (male) know
Ellas conocenThey (female) know
Ustedes conocenYou (plural, Latin America) know
Vosotros conocenYou (plural, Spain) know

Using conocer in examples

Now that we know how to use the verb to each corresponding pronoun, let's take a look at some examples.

Yo no conozco a María.

I don't know María. I am expressing that I haven't met María , therefore, I am not familiar with her.

¿Conoces Paris?

Do you know Paris? The sentence is asking if a Person has been to a Place, meaning is he/she familiar with it. It is the same as asking: Have you been to París?

Nosotros conocemos muy bien a esa familia.

We know that family pretty well. The sentence describes a very close familiarity.

Using conocer and saber in the same sentence

As you can see, the main difference between these verbs is that one provides information, knowledge and skill while the other expresses familiarity and acquaintance.

Let's look at some examples when you can use both verbs.

Yo sé quién es María pero no la conozco.

I know who Maria is but I don't know her. In this sentence, I am implying that I have information or knowledge on who Maria is but I have never met her. I am not familiar with her.

¿Conoces París? No. Sé donde queda pero nunca he ido.

Do you know Paris? No, I know where it is located but I have never been there. As you can see, the person has information on where the city is located but he/ she has never been there so he/she is not familiar with it.

Test Yourself - A Quiz!

Now that you have a pretty clear idea on when to use the verbs "saber" and "conocer" let's take a small quiz to make sure you understand perfectly.

I will ask a question in English and you must provide the answer in Spanish:

  1. Do you know where María is?
  2. Do they know Paris?
  3. Do you know Juan?
  4. Do you know at what time the plane arrives?

Scroll down for the answers!

Quiz Answers

  1. Must use the verb saber: YO SÉ O YO NO SÉ
  2. Must use the verb conocer: ELLOS/ELLAS CONOCEN O ELLOS/ELLAS NO CONOCEN
  3. Must use the verb conocer: CONOZCO O NO CONOZCO.
  4. Must use the verb saber: YO SÉ O YO NO SÉ
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