“Saber” Vs. “Conocer” in Spanish – What’s the Difference?

Saber Vs Conocer in Spanish

This lesson is about two Spanish verbs: “Saber” Vs. “Conocer”. We will talk about their difference in meaning and use, and learn when to use each one.

The things is, these two verbs can be translated as “to know” in English, so we need to clarify exactly when to use each verb.

So let’s study this topic. We will start by reviewing the conjugations of “Saber” and “Conocer” in Present Tense, and then study their different uses.

1. Conjugation of “Saber” and “Conocer” in Present Tense

First, let’s review the conjugations of these two verbs in Present Tense:

 SABER (Present Tense)CONOCER (Present Tense)
yoconozco
sabesconoces
élsabeconoce
nosotrossabemosconocemos
vosotrossabéisconocéis
ellossabenconocen

2. “Saber” Vs. “Conocer” – When do we use each verb?

Now let’s get to the important stuff. After all, you came here to know when you should use each of these verbs.

As we have said, both verbs can mean “to know”, in slightly different ways. So what we need to do, is apply the logic shown in the following table:

You "know"...
...in that you have a skill or information:...in that you are familiar with someone or something:
"SABER""CONOCER"

Saber

As shown in the table, if we mean “knowing” in the sense of “having a skill or information”, we should use “Saber.

Here are some example sentences:

hablar español.
I know how to speak Spanish. (I have that skill).

Sabes cocinar.
You know how to cook. (you have that skill).

Sabemos que la Tierra es redonda.
We know the Earth is round. (we have that information).

¿Sabéis qué ha pasado?
Du you guys know what happened? (do you have that information?)

Conocer


When we mean “knowing” in the sense of “being familiar with someone or something”, then we use “Conocer”.

Example sentences:

Conozco a María.
I know María. (I’m familiar with her)

Mis padres conocen Barcelona.
My parents know Barcelona. (they are familiar with it)

¿Me conoces?
Do you know me? (are you familiar with me?)

Conocemos este libro.
We know this book. (we are familiar with it).


Good news! Sometimes there is flexibility

There are times where we can use either “saber” or “conocer” for a sentence and both are OK. It makes sense, because in some cases we could say both that we “have the information” and “are familiar with it”.

Here are a couple of example sentences where both verbs fit just ok:

la verdad.
Conozco la verdad.
Both sentences mean “I know the truth”.

Él sabe el final de la película.
Él conoce el final de la película.
Both sentences mean “He knows the ending of the movie”.

In general, this flexibility doesn’t exist when we are talking about skills. For skills, always “saber”.

3. Practice “Saber” Vs. “Conocer”

Quiz

Exercise

In the following sentences, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper, choosing between the options in brackets the one that sounds better to you. Then check the solutions at the end of this post.

Ana _____ 1.(sabe/conoce) bailar flamenco. (Ana knows how to dance flamenco)

No _______ 2.(sé/conozco) este pueblo. (I don’t know this town)

Mis amigos te _______ 3.(conocen/saben). (My friends know you)

Juan y Mario _____ 4.(saben/conocen) esquiar. (Juan and Mario know how to ski)

Nosotros _____ 5. (sabemos/conocemos) por qué las plantas son verdes. (We know why plants are green)

Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = sabe, 2 = conozco, 3 = conocen, 4 = saben, 5 = sabemos