Sapere VS Conoscere and Potere: to know, to be able & idioms

Sapere is a rather important verb. Let’s see it together and learn some useful sentences. This time the webcast is for everyone.

Ciao a tutti

Sapere VS conoscere

Prima di tutto, first and foremost, let’s have a look at the conjugations of the two verbs and listen to the correct pronunciation.


Both sapere and conoscere translate as “to know”. The difference is in the depth of knowledge and the object I know.



Sapere is a very important modal verb. A modal verb supports and describes a second verb and amplifies its meaning. In English, for example,  I can swim means that I am able to swim, I know how to do that, or that I am allowed to do that. “Can” is the modal verb, “to swim” is the main verb.

In Italian, “Can” is translated with two different modal verbs: Potere or Sapere (+ an infinitive verb). I can say:

  • (io) so nuotare – I can swim, I learned as a child and I know how to do that.

  • (io) posso nuotare – I can swim, I am allowed to or I’m in a condition to do that.

Another example. Let’s suppose Carlo goes out for dinner and has a few glasses of Chianti. He needs to go back home. Now, he knows how to drive (sa guidare) but tonight he can’t (non può), because he had too much wine.

  • Carlo sa guidare, ma stasera non può perché ha bevuto.



There are plenty of Italian set phrases coming with the verb sapere. Below, a small, personal selection and webcast.


  • Fammi sapere. – Let me know.

  • Sono venuto a sapere che …- I came to know that…

  • Non ne voglio sapere. – I don’t want to know.

  • Ti faccio sapere. – I’ll let you know.

  • Le faremo sapere. – We’ll let you know (formal)

  • Come faccio a saperlo? How would I know it?

  • Mi sa che (il ristorante è caro) – I have the feeling that…

  • Non so se mi spiego. – Need I say more?

  • Mario sa il fatto suo. -He knows his stuff


Thanks for listening. Get in touch if you have questions. Alla prossima!

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Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals. I do not use social media.

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Annie Carment
Annie Carment
6 years ago

Ciao Riccardo.
Hai scritto “Mi sa che (il ristorante è caro)”
Mi chiedo perché non “Mi sa che il ristorante sia caro?”

Don`t copy text!