There are two important Italian verbs English speakers tend to confuse: “Sapere” and “Conoscere”. They both translate into English as “to know”. Podcast.
In a previous post, about some Italian verbs that my students tend to mistake, I dedicated a few words to sapere VS conoscere. I think the topic deserves some more attention. The confusion is quite normal, because both verbs apparently translate into “to know”. Let’s first see and listen to their conjugations.
- io conosco
- tu conosci
- lui conosce
- noi conosciamo
- voi conoscete
- loro conoscono
- io so
- tu sai
- lui sa
- noi sappiamo
- voi sapete
- loro sanno
Conoscere is a plain regular verb and Sapere is irregular, but the differences are not only apparent. Although they seem to be equivalent, in many cases they are not interchangeable at all. Sometimes, they can replace one another but give the sentence a different perspective. A good rule of thumb for understanding the different “depth of knowledge”, we can compare these two verbs to “to see” and “to watch”, (or vedere and guardare in Italian) respectively, sapere and conoscere. I can see something but it doesn’t mean I watched it. Posso sapere una cosa ma non è detto che la conosca!
We can use conoscere to say that we know the existence or details of things, to be acquainted or familiar with somebody or something.
- Conosco Andrea, è simpatico.
- Conosci un buon ristorante a Milano? Io non ne conosco.
- Non conosco le regole del baseball
Sapere means to be aware of something, come to know, know facts (but not necessarily their details). On top of this, sapere is a modal verb, and means “to be able to” do something, so it supports an infinitive verb. “so guidare la macchina” I can drive a car, I am capable of doing it.
- Ho saputo che Mario vive in America.
- Sai dove sono le chiavi? Non lo so!
- Ho saputo che ti sposi, auguri!
I found a nice sentence in wordreference. Tanti sanno l’italiano ma non tutti lo conoscono. Many people are familiar with the Italian language but not as many know it. I have the same problem with English sometimes, so any correction is appreciated. Alla prossima!