When do I use “saber” and “conocer”?

If both “saber” and “conocer” can be translated as “to know”, can I use them interchangeably? No, we can’t; both verbs express two kinds of knowledge.

 

Generally, we use “saber” to talk about a more intellectual knowledge; in order to know something or someone we have to read, listen, watch, study, learn, memorize, etc.

  • Julio sabe todas las capitales de los países. Julio knows the capitals of all the countries. (He studied them at school.)
  • Yo español porque aprendí cuando era niña. I know Spanish because I learned when I was a child.
  • ¿Sabes quiénes serán los candidatos para las próximas elecciones? Do you know who will be the candidates for the next elections? (Have you heard who will be running?)

 

On the other hand, we use “conocer” to talk about a more hands-on knowledge of people, places, and/or things; in order to know something or someone we have to meet, visit, observe, touch, experience, etc.

  • conoces algunos países de Centroamérica. You know some countries in Central America. (You’ve visited them.)
  • Sarah conoce todos los museos de la ciudad. Sarah knows all the museums in town. (She’s been to all of them.)
  • ¿Conoces a la nueva profesora de español? Do you know the new Spanish teacher? (Have you met her?)

 

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