Difference between SAPERE and CONOSCERE

You can certainly claim to know a lot about the Italian language and its culture. By the way, how do you say to know in Italian? It certainly is an important verb to know, since it occurs in many expressions.

There are, actually, two ways to say it. The first is with the verb sapere. Before getting to it, you should know that it is irregular, but only in the present indicative. It is regular in the present perfect (ho saputo, hai saputo, …) and in the imperfect (sapevo, sapevi, …).

Here are its present indicative forms:

  • (io) so  I know
  • (tu) sai  you know (informal)
  • (Lei) sa  you know (formal)
  • (lui) sa  he knows
  • (lei) sa  she knows
  • (noi) sappiamo  we know
  • (voi) sapete  you know (plural)
  • (loro) sanno  they know

Use it to say that you know things in general, such as languages, and that you know how to do things (reading, writing, etc.).

Here are few examples:

  • Mio fratello sa tante cose. My brother knows a lot of things.
  • Mia sorella sapeva lo spagnolo da bambina. My sister used to know Spanish as a child.
  • Io non so fare quei compiti. I don’t know how to do that homework.

The other verb meaning to know is conoscere, which, by the way, is regular in all the tenses you have learned. When do you use conoscere? Here’s when:

  • To indicate that you met someone for the first time, and thus got to know him or her:

Ho conosciuto Marco due anni fa. I met Marco two years ago.

Non conosco l’insegnante d’italiano. I don’t know the Italian teacher.

  • To indicate that you are familiar with a place, situation, and so on.

Noi conosciamo un bel ristorante a Roma. We know (are familiar with) a nice restaurant in Rome.

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