Difference between saber and conocer (to know)

There are two verbs in Spanish that can cause confusion for English speakers because they are both translated by the same verb -  to know:

  • Saber (to know)
  • Conocer (to know)

In Spanish, these verbs have a different meaning depending on the context.

SABER

Saber is used to talk about facts and can be followed by conjunctions like "que(that) or "si" (if):

Yo que a veces soy un poco testaruda.
I know (that) I can be a bit stubborn sometimes.

¿Sabes si el supermercado está abierto?
Do you know if the supermarket is open?

It is incorrect to use "conocer" in these cases,

Yo conozco que a veces soy un poco testaruda.

¿Conoces si el supermercado está abierto?

Saber can also be followed by "cuándo", "dónde", "cuál":

Ellos no saben cuándo van a llegar.
They don't know when they are arriving.

No sabemos dónde vamos a aparcar en el centro.
We don't know where we are going to park in the town centre.

¿Sabéis cuál es la chaqueta de Julia?
Do you know which is Julia's jacket?

We cannot use conocer in these cases either:

¿Conoces cuál es la chaqueta de Julia?

Saber can also be followed by an infinitive, to talk about abilities or skills. In this case its meaning changes to "to know how to do something" and can also be translated as to be able to do something ("I can, you can [do something]):

¿Tú sabes nadar?
Can you swim?

Miriam sabe hablar francés, italiano y español.
Miriam can speak French, Italian and Spanish.

 We still cannot use conocer here:

¿Tú conoces nadar?

CONOCER

Conocer is used to express that you know a place/person.

-¿Conocéis el restaurante italiano nuevo? -No, no lo conocemos.
-Do you know the new Italian restaurant? -No, we don't know it.

¿Conoces a Mariluz?
Do you know Mariluz?

Be careful because you must use the preposition "a" when you use "conocer" with people, like in the example above. However if you are talking about knowing a place you do not need it.

In these cases, using saber would be incorrect:

¿Sabes a Mariluz?

¿Sabéis el restaurante italiano nuevo? -No, no lo sabemos.

When using conocer in any other tense apart from El Presente, the meaning changes to "to meet".

 Have a look:

¿Has conocido ya a tus futuros suegros?
Have you already met your future in-laws?

Ella conoció a su marido en 2010.
She met her husband in 2010.

See also:

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Yo que a veces soy un poco testaruda.
I know (that) I can be a bit stubborn sometimes.


Ella conoció a su marido en 2010.
She met her husband in 2010.


-¿Conocéis el restaurante italiano nuevo? -No, no lo conocemos.
-Do you know the new Italian restaurant? -No, we don't know it.


¿Sabes si el supermercado está abierto?
Do you know if the supermarket is open?


¿Has conocido ya a tus futuros suegros?
Have you already met your future in-laws?


No sabemos dónde vamos a aparcar en el centro.
We don't know where we are going to park in the town centre.


Miriam sabe hablar francés, italiano y español.
Miriam can speak French, Italian and Spanish.


¿Sabéis cuál es la chaqueta de Julia?
Do you know which is Julia's jacket?


¿Tú sabes nadar?
Can you swim?


Ellos no saben cuándo van a llegar.
They don't know when they are arriving.


¿Conoces a Mariluz?
Do you know Mariluz?


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