Savoir or Connaitre Quiz – do you know?
The two verbs can both be translated as ‘to know’ but generally have distinct meanings.
Just to keep things interesting though, there are also two overlapping meanings- you gotta love the French language!
Savoir is used when there’s another verb involved. When that verb is an infinitive (full verb), the English equivalent is “to know how* to.”
Je sais faire du feu. I know how to build a fire
Il ne sait pas nager He doesn’t know how to swim.
* The word “how” is implicit in French and must not be translated; do not say :
commentfaire du feu
When the other verb is in a subordinate clause (a secondary phrase with a conjugated verb), savoir indicates knowledge of that fact or action.
Je sais qu’elle va être en retard. I know she’s going to be late.
Il sait quand tu as trouvé la clé. He knows when you found the key.
Connaître must be used with a direct object, which may be a person, place, or thing. While connaître can be translated by “to know,” it may be helpful to think of it as “to be familiar with”.
Est-ce que tu connais Jean ? Do you know John ?
Elle ne connait pas Paris. She isn’t familiar with Paris.
Je connais bien le français. I know a lot of French.
C’est un bon restaurant, nous It’s a good restaurant, we’ve been
le connaissons depuis 1 an. been familiar with it for 1 year.
Savoir vs Connaître in the passé composé
Both verbs have different meanings in the passé composé.
Savoir = to learn, to find out:
J’ai su que tu avais menti I knew/found out that you’d lied
Il n’a jamais su son prénom He never knew/learnt her name
Connaitre = to have met/got to know someone:
J’ai connu mon mari au travail I met my husband at work
Elle n’a jamais connu ses parents She never knew/met her parents
Savoir or Connaître
Two other meanings of “to know” can be translated by either verb.
1) To know a bit of information
Il sait mon numéro de téléphone He knows my phone number
Il connait mon numéro de téléphone He knows my phone number
2) To know by heart, to have something memorized
Je sait le poème par coeur He knows the poem by heart
Je connais le poème par coeur He knows the poem by heart
So… how well do you know ‘to know’?
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