saber vs conocer

Spanish Verbs for ‘TO KNOW’: SABER vs. CONOCER

There are two irregular verbs, Saber and Conocer, that mean ‘to know’ in the Spanish language. Spanish is full of similar contrasts — por vs para, for example.

It is not strange to have a pair of Spanish verbs that share the same English translation. Other samples of this occurrence include Ser vs. Estar and Caminar vs. Andar. Sometimes they can be used as synonyms but more often than not they have a specific use depending on the context.

This fact may appear confusing but as you read through this article you will learn to conjugate each verb and differentiate their uses.

Difference between SABER and CONOCER

saber vs conocer

Remember that verbs are a part of speech or a kind of words that tell us about an action or a state.

With that in mind, the verb Saber can be related in most instances with the action of being conscious or aware of something.

That is to have the knowledge, to possess the skill, to be mindful, to find out, to have the relevant piece of information or to be up-to-date.

In some other instances, Saber is also used to refer to the taste of food, but we will discuss that further below.

On the other hand, the verb Conocer is used to express a state of the subject in relation to another person, an idea or a place.

Thus, we can deduce that Conocer generally means to be acquainted, to meet someone, and to be familiarized with a concept, or to visit a certain place.  

SABER vs. CONOCER: Simple Indicative Verb Tenses Comparative Chart

With the charts below you may become familiar with the verbs conjugation using both the singular and plural forms of the first, second, and third person of the simple Indicative mood.

SIMPLE INDICATIVE MOOD ‘SABER’
PRONOUN PRESENT IMPERFECT PRETERITE FUTURE CONDITIONAL
Singular First Yo Sabía Supe Sabré Sabría
Second Tú/Vos Sabes/Sabés Sabías Supiste Sabrás Sabrías
Usted Sabe Sabía Supo Sabrá Sabría
Third Él/Ella Sabe Sabía Supo Sabrá Sabría
Plural First Nosotros Sabemos Sabíamos Supimos Sabremos Sabríamos
Second Vosotros/Vosotras Sabéis Sabíais Supisteis Sabréis Sabríais
Ustedes Saben Sabían Supieron Sabrán Sabrían
Third Ellos/Ellas Saben Sabían Supieron Sabrán Sabrían
SIMPLE INDICATIVE MOOD ‘CONOCER’
PRONOUN PRESENT IMPERFECT PRETERITE FUTURE CONDITIONAL
Singular First Yo Conozca Conocía Conocí Conoceré Conocería
Second Tú/Vos Conoces/Conocés Conocías Conociste Conocerás Conocerías
Usted Conoce Conocía Conoció Conocerá Conocería
Third Él/Ella Conoce Conocía Conoció Conocerá Conocería
Plural First Nosotros Conocemos Conocíamos Conocimos Conoceremos Conoceríamos
Second Vosotros/Vosotras Conocéis Conocíais Conocisteis Conoceréis Conoceríais
Ustedes Conocen Conocían Conocieron Conocerán Conocerían
Third Ellos/Ellas Conocen Conocían Conocieron Conocerán Conocerían
NON-PERSONAL FORMS ‘SABER’
PARTICIPLE GERUND INFINITIVE
Sabido Sabiendo Saber
NON-PERSONAL FORMS ‘CONOCER’
PARTICIPLE GERUND INFINITIVE
Conocido Conociendo Conocer

How to Use the Verb SABER

saber and conocer

Saber comes from the Latin «sapĕre». It is used in the following scenarios:

  • To enunciate that you or someone else has found out about something.
  • Supe que Monica se casó con Javier el año pasado. –> I heard that Monica married to Javier last year.
  • Apenas supo que murió su madre, Gabriela llamó al sacerdote de la parroquia. –> As soon as she knew that her mother died, Gabriela called the priest of the parish.
  • ¿Pero ellos sabían que su padre era Julián? –>But did they find out that their father was Julián?
  • ¡A que no sabes a quién me encontré! –> Guess who I met!
  • ¡No sabes de lo que me acabo de enterar! –> You don’t know what I just found out!
  • Todavía no lo sé. –> I don’t know yet.
  • To state that you or a person has certain skills or knowledge in a particular topic.
  • Yo sé cocinar el arroz de sushi. –> I know how to cook sushi rice.
  • Mario sabrá arreglar el coche. –> Mario will know how to fix the car.
  • El Papa Juan Pablo II sabía cómo hablarle a los jóvenes. –> Pope John Paul II knew how to speak to younger generations.

Notice how ‘sé’ is written in the first sentence with an accent mark to differentiate it from the indirect object pronoun ‘se’.

Example:

  • Se lo compré. –> I bought it for him/her).
  • que se lo compraste como un regalo de bodas. –>I know that you bought it for him/her as a wedding gift.
  • To ask anyone for directions or specifications during your travels.
  • ¿Sabrían decirme dónde está la calle Morelos? –>Would you know where Morelos Street is?
  • ¿Sabe usted a qué hora llega el tren a la estación? –>Do you know at what time does the train arrive to the station?
  • ¿Sabes cuánto cuesta la entrada al museo? –> Do you know how much does the entrance ticket to the museum cost?
  • ¿Sabrás qué día de la semana comenzarán las ofertas? –>Will you know which day of the week the sales will start?
  • To enquire if someone has news about an issue or has heard from somebody.
  • ¿Sabes algo de tu hermano? –> Any news from your brother?
  • ¿Sabéis cómo salió Lola de la cirugía? –> Have you heard how did Lola’s surgery go? Or, do you know how Lola came out of the surgery?
  • ¿Sabe el doctor que ha llegado el paciente con el brazo roto? –> Does the doctor know that the patient has arrived with a broken arm?
  • ¿Saben quién ganó el Premio Pulitzer? –> Did you guys hear who won the Pulitzer Prize?
  • ¿Supieron de Miguel? –>Did they hear from Miguel?
  • Lo último que supieron fue que Miguel se mudó a Barcelona. –> The last thing they heard is that Miguel moved to Barcelona.
  • ¿Te sabes el chisme? –> Do you know the gossip?
  • To express that someone is smarter than you, very clever or cunning.
  • ¡Este niño sabe más que yo! –> This boy is smarter than me!
  • Mira que sabes cómo enredar a tu madre. –> See how you know how to deceive your mother.

SABER and ‘Sabor’:

As it was mentioned at the beginning, in some instances ‘saber’ can be used to talk about taste (sabor).

To describe food’s flavor, hints or aftertaste:

La sopa sabía a coliflor, no les gustó. -> The soup tasted like cauliflower, they didn’t like it.

Me sabe echado a perder. -> It’s gone off.

Sabe delicioso, deberías probarlo. -> It tastes delicious, you should try it.

Este chocolate caliente sabrá como el que me preparaba mi abuela. -> This hot chocolate will taste like the one my grandma used to prepare for me.

Sabría mejor con un poco de sal. -> It would taste better with some salt.La carne está insípida, no sabe a nada. -> The meat is tasteless, it lacks flavor.

To define something inedible that has an emotional effect on the mood of general wellbeing:

Me supo mal que me hablaras en ese tono. -> I didn’t like it that you spoke to me using that tone.

Un baño caliente después del trabajo te sabe a gloria. -> A hot bath after work tastes like heaven.

Popular Spanish Expressions with the Verb SABER:

  1. ¡Tú sabrás! –> It’s up to you!
  • ¡Vete tú a saber! –> Who knows!
  • ¡Quién sabe! –> ¡I have no idea!
  • ¡Sabrá Dios! –> Only God knows!
  • Sepa la bola –> Nobody knows.
  • ¿Y qué sé yo? -> Why should I know?
  • ¿Cómo saberlo? -> How could we know?
  • No sé qué te dirá… -> I am not sure how is he/she going to react.
  • No sabes lo que dices. -> You don’t know what you are saying.
  • Tiene un “no sé qué”… -> I can’t put my finger in it. (When a person has something special but that cannot be identified.)
  • No que yo sepa. -> Not that I know.
  • Se las sabe todas. -> He is clever! (It refers to someone that is skilled and smart to navigate through all kind of circumstances.)
  • Sólo sé que no sé nada. –> I only know that I know nothing.
  • Si yo lo supiera… -> If I knew… or If I had the answer…
  • Si lo hubiera sabido… -> If he/she had only known…
  • De haber sabido… If I had known…
  • Es bien sabido que… -> It is well known that…
  • No sabe ni dónde meter la cabeza. –> He/she doesn’t know where to hide. (When someone makes a mistake and feels ashamed.)
  • Nadie sabe lo que tiene hasta que lo pierde. –> You don’t know what you got until is gone.
  • Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo. -> The devil is wiser for being old than for being the devil. (Wisdom comes with age!)

How to Conjugate the Verb SABER

To learn how to conjugate the verb Saber you only have to memorize the following things:

  • The Spanish pronouns.
  • The participle Sabido.
  • The gerund Sabiendo.
  • The first-person of the simple tenses.
  • The correspondence to form the perfect tenses.

The following table provides an example with the pronoun Yo (I).

INDICATIVE
SIMPLE INDICATIVE
PRESENT IMPERFECT PRETERITE FUTURE CONDITIONAL SIMPLE
Sabía Supe Sabré Sabría
PERFECT INDICATIVE
PRESENT PERFECT PAST PERFECT PAST ANTERIOR FUTURE PERFECT CONDITIONAL PERFECT
He sabido Había sabido Hube sabido Habré sabido Habría sabido
SUBJUNCTIVE
SIMPLE SUBJUNCTIVE
PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE IMPERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE FUTURE SUBJUNCTIVE
Sepa Supiera/Supiese Supiere
PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE
PRESENT PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE PLUPERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE FUTURE PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE
Haya sabido Hubiera sabido/Hubiese sabido Hubiere sabido
IMPERATIVE
Sabe
NONFINITE VERB FORMS
INFINITIVE PARTICIPLE GERUNDE
SIMPLE PERFECT Sabido SIMPLE PERFECT
Saber Haber sabido Sabiendo Habiendo sabiendo

How to Use the Verb CONOCER

difference between saber and conocer

The verb Conocer comes from the Latin «cognoscĕre». It can be used in the following scenarios:

To describe a relationship with a friend, relative or acquaintance (to know someone).

Conozco a su padre. –> I know his/her father.

Marina conocerá a sus vecinos cuando se mude a su nuevo apartamento. -> Marina will meet her neighbors when she moves into her new apartment.

¿Quién es ese hombre? ¿Lo conoces? –> Who is that man? Do you know him?

No lo conozco, solo lo he visto un par de veces, pero a su esposa la conocí bien en mi juventud. -> I don´t know him, I’ve just seen him a couple of times, but I knew her wife pretty well in my youth.

¿Habéis conocido a mi hijo Julián? –> Have you met my son Julián?

Conócelo mejor antes de casarte con él. -> Get to know him better before marrying him.

Es un conocido de Alberto, juegan juntos al tenis en el club deportivo. -> He is an acquaintance of Alberto; they play tennis together at the sports club.

To recount how did two people meet (to meet someone).

Mamá, ¿cómo se conociste a papá? – Mom, how did you meet dad?

Nos conocimos en la universidad – We met at uni.

Se conocen desde que eran pequeños, sus madres eran mejores amigas. -> They know each other since they were children, their mothers were best friends.

Edgar conoció a su padre hasta que cumplió los catorce años. -> Edgar met his father until he turned fourteen.

Los dejo para que se conozcan. -> I leave you guys, so you can get to know one another.

  • To communicate that you (or someone else) know how something such as an object, person or a place is.
  • Que conduzca Antonio, él conoce el camino. – Let Antonio drive, he knows the way.
  • Macarena dijo que conocía la melodía del piano. –> Macarena said that she knew the melody from the piano.
  • A mis suegros les gustaría conocer París. -> My parents-in-law would like to go to Paris.
  • No me digas mentiras, te conozco bien. –> Don’t lie to me, I know you well.

Negative sentences:

  • ¿No desea conocerle? -> Don’t you want to know him/her?
  • No me conoces lo suficiente como para decirme qué puedo o no puedo hacer. -> You don’t know me that well to tell me what can or can’t do.
  • No conozco a nadie que haga eso. -> I don’t know anyone who does that.
  • Matías no quiere conocer a su familia biológica. -> Matías doesn’t want to meet his biological family.
  • No hubiera conocido a mi novio de no ser por el mi amiga Laura. -> I would have not met my boyfriend if it wasn’t for my friend Laura.

To talk about why someone or something is known for.

Bob Marley fue conocido alrededor del mundo por su música de reggae y sus rastas. -> Bob Marley was known around the world for his reggae music and his dreadlocks.

Esa región se conoce por sus viñedos y la belleza de sus paisajes. -> That region is known for its vineyards and the beauty of its landscapes.

How to Conjugate the Verb CONOCER

To learn how to conjugate the verb Conocer you only have to memorize the following things:

  • The Spanish pronouns.
  • The participle Conocido.
  • The gerund Conociendo.
  • The first-person of the simple tenses.
  • The correspondence to form the perfect tenses.

The following table provides an example with the pronoun Yo (I).

INDICATIVE
SIMPLE INDICATIVE
PRESENT IMPERFECT PRETERITE FUTURE CONDITIONAL SIMPLE
Conozco Conocía Conocí Conoceré Conocería
PERFECT INDICATIVE
PRESENT PERFECT PAST PERFECT PAST ANTERIOR FUTURE PERFECT CONDITIONAL PERFECT
He conocido Había conocido Hube conocido Habré conocido Habría conocido
SUBJUNCTIVE
SIMPLE SUBJUNCTIVE
PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE IMPERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE FUTURE SUBJUNCTIVE
Conozca Estuviera/Estuviese Conociere
PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE
PRESENT PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE PLUPERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE FUTURE PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE
Haya conocido Hubiera/Hubiese conocido Hubiere conocido
IMPERATIVE
Conoce/Conoced
NONFINITE VERB FORMS
INFINITIVE PARTICIPLE GERUNDE
SIMPLE PERFECT Conocido SIMPLE PERFECT
Conocer Haber conocido Conociendo Habiendo conocido

Finally, a popular Spanish saying goes like this: “Como dice Juan Orozco, cuando como no conozco.

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