Saber vs Conocer in Spanish: Which to Use & When

In Spanish, there are two different verbs ‘to know.’ Knowing which one to use is often difficult for English speakers. However, they are two of the most important verbs you can learn if you want to speak Spanish beyond beginner level.

In this post, we take you through saber vs conocer, when to use these two verbs and how to make sure you do not make mistakes when using them.

We’ll take you through:

👍 Conocer vs saber and the main differences between both

👍 When to use the verb saber

👍 When to use the verb conocer

How to conjugate saber in the present tense

In Spanish, it’s important to learn how to conjugate verbs in the present tense as quickly as possible.

Once you have done this, you’ll be able to manipulate the language and talk more fluently without needing to translate from English first.

See below how to conjugate saber in the present tense.

SubjectVerb: Saber (to know)English Translation
yoI know
sabesyou know
él / ella / ustedsabehe / she / you knows
nosotros / nosotrassabemoswe know
vosotros / vosotrassabéisyou know
ellos / ellas / ustedessabenthey know

How to conjugate conocer in the present tense

SubjectVerb: Conocer (to know)English Translation
yoconozcoI know
conocesyou know
él / ella / ustedconocehe / she / you knows
nosotros / nosotrasconocemoswe know
vosotros / vosotrasconocéisyou know
ellos / ellas / ustedesconocenthey know

Use ‘saber’ for general information

Saber means ‘to know’ in the sense of knowing general information. However, there are some discrepancies with this and certain things to remember here when learning Spanish.

That said, as a general rule, if you have heard something or have found out some fact, saber is the correct verb to use in this situation.

Ejemplos:

🇪🇸 Debes saber que es muy perjudicial fumar.

You should know that it’s very harmful to smoke.

🇪🇸 ¿Crees que saben el resultado del partido?

Do you think they know the result of the match?

 

person playing soccer

Use saber to ask how to do something

The verb saber is used when asking somebody how to do something, or explaining that you know how to do something.

For example:

Leticia, tengo mas experiencia que tú. Yo sé como se hace el tiro con arco.”

Leticia, I have more experience than you do. I know how to shoot with a bow and arrow.

Use saber for a learned skill or specific information

Saber is used when a person has a basic knowledge or knows how to perform specific tasks.

It can translated with ‘knowing’ as well as knowing how.

Por ejemplo:

🇪🇸 Yo escribir en español.

I know how to read Spanish.

🇪🇸 Ellos saben como hacer dinero.

They know how to make money

Saber vs Conocer: When to use Conocer?

Now we come on to the other verb ‘to know’ in Spanish – conocer.

As a general rule, conocer is a stronger verb than saber, meaning that when you ‘know’ something you know it well.

It has the sense of having acquired knowledge from somewhere, such as cultural knowledge or general information, rather than knowing things through personal experience or practice.

Por ejemplo:

🇪🇸 Yo conozco bien el país vasco.

I know the Basque country well.

Now, let’s take a look at specific cases of when to use conocer.

colourful houses in the basque country
Use conocer to know a person, place or thing

Conocer is the correct verb to use if you want to know the name or location of a person, place or thing.

For example:

🇪🇸 Yo conozco a Veronica desde hace muchos años.

I have known Veronica for many years.

🇪🇸 El nombre de la plaza es Plaza España. Yo no la conozco.

The name of the place is Plaza España. I know it.

Note that, in this case, ‘it’ refers to the place and insinuates that the speaker knows the area and its whereabouts.

Use conocer to know a person, even if not by name

As noted earlier, always remember to use conocer to explain that you know a person or relative.

Por ejemplo:

🇪🇸 Yo conozco a tu primo.

I know your cousin.

🇪🇸 Ella me dijo que no te conoce.

She told me that she doesn’t know you.

Use conocer when referring to knowing of places

Above, you’ll notice there’s an ‘a‘ between you knowing something and the person are referring to.

In Spanish, we call this the ‘personal a’ and you’ll come across it when you learn Spanish beyond beginner level.

When describing places, we don’t add the ‘a’ in Spanish. Let’s look at some examples for context.

🇪🇸 No conozco España.

I don’t know Spain (refers to not having been).

🇪🇸 Usted sabe que no conozco las Islas Baleares.

You know that I don’t know the Balearic Islands.

🇪🇸 Conozco todas las ciudades en México porque fui en 2018.

I know all the cities in Mexico because I went in 2018.

people standing on corner road near concrete buildings during daytime
Conocer in reciprocal sentences

In Spanish, reciprocal verbs describe two persons that do something to or for one another. These are not to be confused with reflexive verbs. 😉

Examples include:

🇪🇸 Amarse – to love each other

🇪🇸 Enojarse – to get angry at each other

🇪🇸 Escribirse – to write to each other

🇪🇸 Hablarse – to talk to each other

One particular verb similar to those above is ‘conocerse.’

This is used in the way we say ‘meet’ in English.

🇪🇸 Se conocieron en 1995.

They met each other in 1995.

🇪🇸 Nos conocemos desde hace muchos años…

We’ve known each other a long time…

Saber vs Conocer: Can you ever use both?

By now, you should have a relatively clear idea of the difference between saber and conocer.

There is a grey area where a kind-of-interchangeability may occur, and that is when talking about abstract ideas.

However, this is not something you should worry about. It will come naturally the more you use the two verbs and Spanish language in general on a daily basis.

Below are some examples of this interchangeability.

🇪🇸 El arqueólogo quiere conocer el motivo por el que se extinguieron los dinosaurios.

The archaeologist wants to know the reason why dinosaurs became extinct.

🇪🇸 El arqueólogo quiere saber el motivo por el que se extinguieron los dinosaurios.

The archaeologist wants to know the reason why dinosaurs became extinct.

There is a subtle difference in the meaning of each of those two sentences.

The first one (using conocer), refers to wanting to find out the truth and the second one (using saber) refers to wanting to know something for a fact.

Saber vs Conocer: Summing up when to use them

So, let’s sum up what we’ve been through.

When it comes to saber vs conocer, there are a few simple points to take into consideration. We’ll go through these with examples.

Remember to use saber when talking about:

✅ Facts – meaning you know something for a fact.

✅ Information – expressing you know something in particular.

✅ Learned Skills – stating you know how to do something.

However, conocer is used in the following contexts:

✅ PERSON – pronoun a, meeting for the first time, reciprocal sentences.

✅ PLACE – expressing you know or do not know a place.

✅ THING – expressing you know a something in particular.

Man thinking about saber vs conocer

Saber examples in the Spanish language

🇪🇸 Te lo digo ahora para que lo sepas.

I’m telling you now so that you know about it.

🇪🇸 Yo sé que has estado toda la noche con ella.

I know you’ve been with her all night.

🇪🇸 Ustedes saben que no soy así.

You know I’m not like that.

🇪🇸 No le empujes hacia al agua, no sabe nadar…

Don’t push him towards the water, he doesn’t know how to swim…

🇪🇸 Que yo sepa, estos chicos no tienen trabajo.

As far as I know, these guys don’t have jobs.

🇪🇸 No me preguntes eso, yo no sé nada.

Don’t ask me that, I don’t know anything.

🇪🇸 Nosotros sabemos bien la situación. No hay problema.

We know the situation well. There’s no problem.

Conocer examples:

In essence, there are several ways to translate conocer, depending on context. Let’s look at some examples below.

🇪🇸 Te ves muy familiar, ¿nos conocemos?

You look really familiar, do we know each other?

🇪🇸 ¿Conoces la persona que ha dejado esta maleta en el pasillo?

Do you know the person that has left this suitcase in the corridor?

🇪🇸 Juan no conoce bien a Rina ahora que se ha mudado.

Juan doesn’t know Rina well now she has moved away.

🇪🇸 ¿Conoces Madrid? Yo lo conozco bien y me encanta.

Do you know Madrid? I know it well and I love it.

🇪🇸 Yo conozco a toda la gente que vive en aquel apartamento.

I know everyone that lives in that apartment.

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