kennen vs. wissen


3.8 Did you know? The example shows: "Ich weiß viel über amerikanische Geschichte." (I know lots about American history.) However, the explanation says: "...When referring to knowledge about a subject that you know well, or something you are familiar with, and places kennen is generally used ..." Confusing. Which one should it be - wissen or kennen?


Hi there, sorry about the confusion, I know it's not the easiest thing to get your head around. Generally the rule that you mentioned applies. However there are always exception, it's German after all. One exception is that the word "über" goes with "wissen". "Etwas wissen über" means "to know something about". Even if you refer to a person you would use "wissen" in this case. Ich weiss viel über ihn - I know a lot about him Ich weiss viel über Hunde - I know a lot about dogs BUT Ich kenne ihn - I know him Ich kenne viele Hunde - I know many dogs Same with the example about American history - it is something you know about so you use "wissen über" Ich weiss viel über amerikanische Geschichte - I know a lot about American history BUT Ich kenne viele Geschichten - I know a lot of stories. I hope that helps. Please let me know if you would like me to give you more examples. You can always post some sentences and I can tell you if you got them right. All the best Paul


Thank you for the explanation. Since this is a "beginning" course, I assumed that the examples would match the rules. I am well aware that all things have exceptions. In a beginning course, I would like to see the exception labeled as an exception. Otherwise, it causes more confusion. I have a hard time learning "by exception." I would rather learn "by example." -Bruce


keeps us all on our feet though.... :-)


Does Paul Weber still help around the German forums years later?


Can someone please explain this for me which on the same subject.
"Wisst ihr wo der Bahnhof ist?
Do you know where the train station is?"

Why is kennen not used here since it is talking about a place?


David K

Guten Tag, errant-italien-knight.

I'm just a fellow student, so out of curiosity I ran your question through Google translate and Google provides the same example using Wisst, not kennst.

The way I've been learning it, we can use "kennen" when "familiar with" would be used in English.  As we might do with people, or topics we know a great deal about.

Wissen, is used in cases where the knowledge is more of a factual bit of information.

So in this case the question seems factual.  One is asking for an item of information.  We would ask, "Are you familiar with the nearest trainstation?" As if we had a particularly keen interest in that particular train station.

I don't know for sure, however, if my theory is correct, we might learn that if the question were asked about one particularly famous train station of a historic nature or special unique monument we might hear someone use "Kennen Sie." 

Well I appear to be wrong.   I have Google Translate in another window, and every variation of the question I ask, Google always uses "Kennen."  I tried "Are you familiar with the Brandenburg Gate?"  Do you know about the Brandenburg Gate?

Oops now I find Google translating "Are you familiar with the Brandenburg Gate" as "Sind Sie vertraut mit dem Brandenburger Tor?"  

Oh well I guess I haven't "cleared things up" have I?"

 I enjoyed conversing with your yesterday. 

Auf Wiederschreiben.   (I just learned that Germans use Auf Wiederhoren when saying Good bye on the phone because technically Auf Wiedersehen means "see you again" and we don't actually see anyone while talking on the phone.  So I'm thinking when we are exchanging text in a blog we are neither seeing each other or hearing each other, but saying "I'll write you again." 

Bis Denn.

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