Unit 5: The infinitive, stem-change verbs, and por and para

5.4 Verbs saber and conocer

Spanish has two verbs that often translate as “to know.” Saber is an irregular verb that means to know a fact, a piece of information, or to know something by memory. Conocer is a regular verb that means to know a city, place, person, or work of art.


Person Singular Plural
1st sabemos
2nd sabes sabéis
3rd sabe saben


Person Singular Plural
1st conozco conocemos
2nd conoces conocéis
3rd conoce conocen

Although the first person singular of conocer may appear irregular, it is not. The insertion of the z before the c serves to keep the “soft” sound of the s. (All verbs ending in vowel + –cer and -cir follow this pattern.)

Sé donde vive. I know where he lives.
¿Sabes la respuesta? Do you know the answer?
Sé el poema de memoria. I know the poem by memory.
Conozco el poema. I’m familiar with the poem.
¿Conocen Uds. Andalucía? Do you know (Are you acquainted/familiar with) Andalusia?
Ellas conocen a mi esposa. They know my wife.
¿Conoce el camino a la playa? Do you know the road to the beach?

Saber followed directly by the infinitive means “to know how to do something.” The omission of como is the norm, though when it occasionally appears it does not cause comprehension problems.

¿Sabes esquiar? Do you know how to ski?
Raquel sabe traducir documentos del latín al español. Raquel knows how to translate documents from Latin to Spanish.
No sabemos cómo explicar esto. We don’t know how to explain this.

(Cómo, in the last example, is another indirect interrogative and, as such, takes a written accent mark.)


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