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Saber vs. Conocer: Do You "Know" the Difference?

Do you "know" the difference between the Spanish verbs saber and conocer? Although they both mean "to know" in Spanish, there are subtle differences between them. Let's explore them!

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The Spanish Verb Saber

The Spanish verb saber describes "knowing" something concrete, such as a fact, information, or skill. Let's take a look at each of these subcategories with examples from our Yabla Spanish library. 

 

Facts

The verb saber in Spanish is used to talk about "knowing" (or not knowing!) specific facts:

 

¿Ya sabes que el pez globo es venenoso?

Do you know that the puffer fish is poisonous?

Caption 33, Guillermina y Candelario El paseo sobre el mar

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No sabía que estaba embarazada.

I didn't know she was pregnant.

Caption 75, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 2 - Part 11

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Note that the Spanish verb saber falls into the category of Spanish verbs that change meaning in the preterite tense, as its meaning changes in the preterite from "to know" to "to find out."

 

Así supe que su nombre era Lucía,

That's how I found out that her name was Lucía,

Caption 30, Luis Guitarra Historia de Lucía - Part 1

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Information

The Spanish verb saber can also describe having knowledge of particular information:

 

¿Y sabes a qué hora abren?

And do you know what time they open?

Caption 25, Español para principiantes Hablando de ubicaciones

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¿Eh? Estoy seguro que ella sabe dónde está el Gringo.

Right? I am sure that she knows where the Gringo is.

Caption 44, Yago 3 La foto - Part 6

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Skills

When talking about skills, the formula saber + infinitive is used to say that someone "knows how" to do something. Let's take a look. 

 

Pues yo quería mostrarle que también sé hacer muchas cosas.

Well, I wanted to show her that I know how to do a lot of things too.

Caption 37, Guillermina y Candelario Una Amiga muy Presumida - Part 1

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En la vida hay que saber relajarse,

In life, you need to know how to relax,

Caption 44, Ana Teresa 5 principios del yoga

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The Spanish Verb Conocer

The Spanish verb conocer, on the other hand, refers to being familiar with or acquainted with something, which could be a person, place, or thing. Let's see some examples from each category.

 

People

The Spanish verb conocer is employed to talk about "knowing" people, in the sense of being acquainted with them.

 

Por ejemplo: Conozco a María.

For example: I know María.

Caption 11, Lecciones con Carolina Saber y conocer

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Y cuando pasó el tiempo conocí a Edgar, ¿no? Nos conocimos en la escuela.

And as time went by I met Edgar, right? We met at school.

Caption 14, Belanova Entrevista - Part 2

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Notice that, in both examples above, the Spanish pronoun a appears after the verb conocer and before the person. This so-called personal a is necessary when a person is the object of a Spanish sentence. Additionally, we see that the meaning of the verb conocer also changes meaning in the preterite from "to know" to "to meet."

 

Places

Although it is sometimes translated as "to know," when used in reference to places, the Spanish verb conocer usually denotes having actually been somewhere rather than just awareness of its existence. That said, let's take a look at some alternative translations:

 

¿Conoces las Islas Canarias?

Have you been to the Canary Islands?

Caption 89, Clase Aula Azul El verbo gustar - Part 5

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Conocí las islas Barú de... de Colombia

I visited the Barú Islands in... in Colombia

Caption 89, Cleer y Lida Juego de preguntas y respuestas - Part 2

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Things

The verb conocer in Spanish can also refer to familiarity with objects and might thus be translated with either "to know" or "to be familiar with":

 

Realmente son frases que vuestros compañeros no conocen, entonces es una información nueva para ellos.

They really are sentences that your classmates don't know, so it's new information for them.

Captions 45-46, Clase Aula Azul Información con subjuntivo e indicativo - Part 4

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¡Ah! Pues yo no conocía esta tablet.

Oh! Well, I wasn't familiar with this tablet.

Caption 74, El Aula Azul Ester y Paula

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Having seen these parameters and examples, we hope you now "know" the difference between saber and conocer in Spanish! To further explore this topic, check out Lecciones con Carolina: Saber y conocer. And, don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

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