Italian has two verbs that mean “to know”
Learning the different uses of these two verbs is very important because although they both mean to know, they refer to different things.
is an irregular verb.
Sapere means to know something or a fact, to know how + infinitive meaning how to do something.
SAPERE can be used with nouns, verb infinitive or verb introduced by CHE, SE or DI.
We use SAPERE:
-> To indicate that you know something (in a phrase with a noun, or noun equivalent)
Marco sa il tuo indirizzo (Marco knows your address)
Io non so il tuo nome (I don’t know your name)
-> to indicate that you know that/ if (With a phrase introduced by CHE/SE)
So che lui è felice (I know that he is happy)
Loro non sanno che io sono qui (They don’t know that I’m here)
Sai se arrivano oggi i nostri amici) (Do you know if our friends are arriving today?)
-> to indicate that you know how to do something (in a phrase with an infinitive verb)
Sapere + infinitive means to know how to do something, that we have an ability or a skill.
Lucia sa cucinare (Lucia knows how to cook)
Mario sa nuotare molto bene (Mario knows how to swim very well)
-> to indicate the taste or the smell of something
Sapere di means to taste/smell of.
Questo tè è molto buono. Sa di menta. (This tea is very good. It tastes like mint)
When SAPERE is negative, it is often followed by the subjunctive to stress uncertainty.
Non sapevo che tu cantassi cosi bene ( I didn’t know you could sing so well)
Non so se si possa rimborsare il biglietto del treno (I don’t know if the train ticket can be refunded)
Sapere also has different meaning when used in the past tense.
Ieri ho saputo che Maria partirà per una vacanza (Yesterday I found out that Maria is going on holiday)
Expressions with SAPERE
Sapere qualcosa per esperienza (to know something from experience )
Sapere il fatto proprio (to know what’s what)
Saperla lunga (di) (to know a lot (about);)
Saperci fare (to be good at something, know how to do something)
Saperne una più del diavolo (to have more than one trick up one’s sleeve)
Sapere ascoltare (to be a good listener)
Buono a sapersi! (That’s good to know!)
Che io sappia… (As far as I know . . .)
Che ne so io! (How should I know!)
Non ne so niente. (I don’t know anything about it.)
Senza saperlo (unknowingly)
Non sapere fare altro che (to know only how to do)
Es: Non sai fare altro che lamentarti. (All you know how to do is complain.)
Sapersi in giro (to be publicized/made known)
Es.: Non voglio che si sappia in giro. (I don’t want people to know about it.)
is a regular verb.
Conoscere means to be acquainted/familiar with something or somebody.
We use CONOSCERE:
– to indicate that of if you know someone
Claudia, conosci un buon medico? (Claudia, do you know a good doctor?)
Noi non conosciamo tuo zio (We do not know your uncle)
Conosci Gianni Rossi? (Do you know Gianni Rossi?)
No, ma conosco sua moglie Chiara. (No, but I know his wife, Chiara.)
– to indicate that you are familiar with something or a place
Conosci Milano? (Are you familiar with Milan?)
Conosco un buon ristorante qui vicino (I know a good restaurant near here)
Quella professoressa conosce molto bene la matematica (That professor knows Mathematics very well.)
Quell’uomo conosce MIlano come le sue tasche (That man knows Milano like the back of his hand.
Expressions with CONOSCERE
conoscere un luogo come le proprie tasche (to know a place like the back of one’s hand)
conoscere il proprio mestiere (to know one’s trade/ job/line of work)
conoscersi (to know each other, meet each other)
conoscersi di vista (to know each other by sight)
conoscere mezzo mondo (to know everybody)
farsi conoscere (to make oneself known)
MORE DIFFERENCES ABOUT SAPERE AND CONOSCERE
Note that with names of places, conoscere is often the equivalent of English “have ever been to“.
—Conosci Firenze? (Have you ever been to Florence?)
—No, non conosco la Toscana. (No, I’ve never been to Tuscany.)
CONOSCI Roma? –> (Do you know Rome?/Are you acquainted with Rome?)
SAI dov’è Roma? –> (Do you know where Rome is?)
The passato prossimo of CONOSCERE is often equivalent to English “met someone“.
—Non sapevo che conoscevi il direttore. (I didn’t know you knew the director.)
—Sì, l’ho conosciuto l’anno scorso. (Yes, I do. I met him last year.)
The passato prossimo of SAPERE is often equivalent to English “found out“.
Ho gridato di gioia quando ho saputo che la nostra squadra aveva vinto.
(I shouted with joy when I found out that our team had won.)
Quando avete saputo cosa è accaduto a Roma? (When did you find out what happened in Rome?)
Sapere, not conoscere, is used before all clauses:
Sai la data del concerto? (Do you know the date of the concert?)
Non so il suo cognome. (I don’t know his last name.)
Chi sa dove lavora Giulio? (Who knows where Giulio works?)
Sappiamo che sono partiti. (We know that they have left.)
Sapete se verranno? (Do you know whether they’ll come?)
Non so quando torneranno. (I don’t know when they’ll be back.)