In Spanish, there are two very different verbs that both translate into English as “to know”. These two verbs both have very different meanings, but the fact that they translate to the same thing means a lot of English-speaking students of Spanish get confused when they learn the words and make a lot of mistakes when using them. Here we’re going to look at the difference between the two words, why they’re not interchangeable, and make sure that you don’t make any mistakes with them in the future. 

The two Spanish verbs in question are:

Conocer

and

Saber

Now, each of these verbs can have several different meanings in themselves, but they each have a meaning that translates into English as “to know”. 

So what’s the difference between the two meanings?

Well, there isn’t only one form of “knowing”. You can know people, or you can know something, and this is where the difference lies between the two.

Conocer = to know somebody

Saber = to know something

For this reason, it wouldn’t be correct to replace ‘conocer’ in Spanish with ‘saber’ or vice-versa, as their meanings are not equivalent – only their translations are. Let’s look at some examples to solidify our knowledge.

Using ‘conocer’

Conozco a ese hombre, es un gran científico

I know that man, he’s a great scientist

¿Conoces a mi amiga, Julia? Ella es muy inteligente y valiente

Do you know my friend Julia? She’s very intelligent and brave

Using ‘saber’

Yo sé la razón por la que están enfadados

I know the reason that they’re angry

Ellas no saben lo difícil que es trabajar en una fábrica

They don’t know how difficult it is to work in a factory

Hopefully, you can see here the clear difference between the usages of the two verbs. ‘Conocer’ is always used for knowing people, while ‘saber’ is used for knowing something/ knowing things.

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