Saber Conocer Spanish Verbs

Strange Shades of Meaning

You cannot expect to have a language that’s a literal one-on-one translation of another language. As a result, you find some Spanish words that seem to convey a million and one English meanings (such as the word llave, which can mean a key, a tap, or a wrench). Conversely, you are going to find many verbs in Spanish that have shades of meaning that don’t exist in English, such as ser and estar.

The verbs saber and conocer fall into the latter category. Both verbs mean “to know.” They are very, very useful in everyday life, but they are used in different contexts. If you understand which verb to use, you can also ask someone if he or she knows someone else, or even tell people, “I don’t know!”

Which verb you use will depend on what is being known in your sentence.

Saber is used in the context of knowing information or ideas.

e.g., “Yo sé como cocinar.” I know how to cook.

Conocer is used in the context of knowing a person or a place.

e.g., “¿Conoces bien la ciudad?” Do you know the city well?

The present tense conjugations of the verbs can be seen in the following table. You will notice that both ‘yo’ forms are irregular in the present.

 
Present Tense...
SABER (to go)
CONOCER (to be: permanent)
yo
conozco
sabes
conoces
Ud., él, ella
sabe
conoce
nosotros/as
sabemos
conocemos
vosotros/as
sabéis
conocéis
Uds., ellos, ellas
saben
conocen

SABER: To Know Information or How to Do Something

Saber is used when the subject knows a piece of information or how to do a specific task. It can be translated as “to know” as well as “to know how.”

Por ejemplo:

CONOCER: To Know a Person, Place, or Thing

Conocer is used when the subject knows a particular person or place, as in, “Do you know where to go?” or “Do you know Jamie?”

It can also be used in the context of knowing a particular thing, such as, “I know this computer. I used to work on it before I switched desks,” or “I know that outfit! I almost bought it last week.”

Por ejemplo:

Notice that in the third example, the direct object is a person, which means that you should add the word “a” before “el abuelo.” Remember that a + el = al.

Knowing Places

The word conocer can be difficult to translate when you’re talking about places. For example, if someone asks you…

¿Conoces España?

…they usually want to know if you’ve been to Spain. If, on the other hand, they ask:

¿Conoces España bien?

…they want to know whether you are familiar with the country, i.e., whether you know it well.

Por ejemplo:

In the next section we’ll work on Talking about what you like, love, and lack


Testing!

Test yourself with the Rocket Spanish testing tools! Improve your knowledge of Spanish and earn points for your badges along the way!

Note that the tests below are listed from easiest to hardest. Also, when a test is successfully rated the rating icon will at the top right of this page will show that rating.

Hear It Say It!

<{percentComplete['hearit']}>

Improve your understanding of spoken Spanish. With Hear it Say it! you can tune your ear to Spanish, increase your vocabulary and improve your pronunciation at the same time! Ready?

  • Click the Get Started button below
  • LISTEN to the audio (and touch up your pronunciation with Rocket Record if you like; Chrome/Firefox/Edge desktop browsers only)
  • Click REVEAL to see the word/phrase and see the translation
  • Just click your RATING to continue

See how many words you've rated at each level below. Just click on the number below each rating to review your words and phrases.

Write It!

<{percentComplete['writeit']}>

Write it! helps you to improve your written Spanish and your understanding of sentence structures. Just listen to the audio and type in what you hear!

  • Click the Get Started button below
  • LISTEN to the audio
  • WRITE down, in Spanish, what you hear
  • Click REVEAL to see the word/phrase and see the translation
  • Your answer will be automatically RATED, just click the rating to continue

Tip!

Click the keyboard icon for a Spanish keyboard

Know It!

<{percentComplete['knowit']}>

Know it! tests you on your ability to translate English to Spanish! Ready?

  • Click the Get Started button below
  • READ the word/phrase
  • RECORD yourself saying it in Spanish (Chrome/Firefox/Edge desktop browsers only)
  • Click REVEAL to see the word/phrase in Spanish and listen to the Spanish audio

Over 1,200,000 people love Rocket Languages

Here's what Rocket Languages members have to say:

Andrei Freeman - Pennsylvania, USA

Andrei
Freeman

Pennsylvania, USA

Rudi Kopp - USA

Rudi
Kopp

USA

Carmen Franceschino - Pennsylvania, USA

Carmen
Franceschino

Pennsylvania, USA

Kelly Scali - Chicago, USA

Kelly
Scali

Chicago, USA

Mark Waddel - Auckland, NZ

Mark
Waddel

Auckland, NZ

William McGill - Florida, USA

William
McGill

Florida, USA

Probably the best language tool I've come across. Actually love it more than Rosetta Stone and Duolingo

Try our award-winning Spanish language software for FREE

(And see how easy it actually is to learn Spanish... even if you've tried and failed before)

As seen in The New York Times, PC Mag Editors' Choice, Trust Guard - Security Verified, 60 Day - Money back Guarantee