Did you know there are two ways to say “to know” in Italian?
Sounds crazy, but it’s true!
In Italian, conoscere (to know) and sapere (to know) are both used quite commonly. You’ll find them in what you read and what you hear.
And eventually, you’ll also use these verbs when you write and speak.
While having two words for one verb might sound twice as cool, it can often be twice as tricky for Italian learners to get the hang of.
And distinguishing between the two and remembering their usages isn’t just a beginner problem!
As native speakers of a language that uses just one word for “to know,” having to keep up with two separate ones with slightly different meanings can be tricky to make a habit—regardless of how long you’ve been learning the language.
But here’s the good news: learning this tidbit of funky Italian grammar is actually quite easy!
And I’m here walk you through the conjugations, meanings and rules all the way through.
By the end of this post, you’ll see that the whole “to know” subject isn’t really such a big deal after all!
If You Know, You Know: How to Master Conoscere vs. Sapere in Italian
Conoscere vs. Sapere Conjugation Forms
Both conoscere and sapere are irregular -ere verbs.
What does it mean when we say a verb is irregular?
It’s just a term to indicate that the ordinary conjugation rules for that type of verb (in this case, for verbs with -ere endings) don’t apply.
When you learn irregular verbs, the easiest way to master them is to simply memorize each of them individually, since they don’t follow a pattern like regular verbs.
You can do this easily by adding them to a flashcard deck, writing them out in sentences or using another method for memorization you’d typically use for vocabulary words.
Let’s check out the conjugations for conoscere and sapere now!
Conoscere Conjugation Forms
io conosco (I know)
tu conosci (you know)
lui / lei conosce (he/she knows)
noi conosciamo (we know)
voi conoscete (you know)
loro conoscono (they know)
Sapere Conjugation Forms
io so (I know)
tu sai (you know)
lui / lei sa (he/she knows)
noi sappiamo (we know)
voi sapete (you know)
loro sanno (they know)
Understanding When to Use Conoscere
Now that you know how to conjugate conoscere and sapere, let’s look at when we use them!
First, we’ll start with conoscere.
To Know Something
If you know something to be true, use conoscere.
Conosce la verità. (He knows the truth.)
Conosce le misure precise. (She knows the exact measurements.)
To Have Knowledge About an Issue
Conoscere is the verb to use when you are knowledgeable about a topic.
Conosce l’intera storia. (He knows the whole story.)
Conosce l’opera? (Does he know about the opera?)
To Know a Particular Person
When you want to talk about how you know someone, use conoscere.
Loro conoscono tuo cugino! (They know your cousin!)
Mia madre conosce tua madre. (My mother knows your mother.)
To Have Had a Personal Experience
When you want to relay a personal experience or discuss someone else’s personal experiences, use the verb conoscere.
Conosco molto bene Los Angeles perché ci vivevo una volta. (I know Los Angeles very well because I once lived there.)
Loro conoscono il balletto perché sono ballerini. (They know ballet because they are dancers.)
To Know People, Places and Things
Conoscere is the verb to use when you wish to discuss people, places or things.
Conosciamo quella donna, ma non so il suo nome. (We know that woman but I don’t know her name.)
Tu sai l’italiano molto bene. (You know the Italian language very well.)
Sa tutto della Germania. (He knows all about Germany.)
Understanding When to Use Sapere
To Know a Fact
When you need to state something factual, use the verb sapere.
Sanno parlare molte lingue. (They know how to speak many languages.)
So come trovare il parco. (I know how to find the park.)
To Know Proper Names
Sapere is used when discussing proper names.
So che è la Statua della Libertà. (I know that is the Statue of Liberty.)
Sai che non è l’Europa! (You know that is not Europe!)
To Know Data
When you have some kind of data to share, use sapere.
Sa quando arriverà il pacco. (He knows when the package will arrive.)
Sa quando si terrà la festa. (She knows when the party will be held.)
To Know Exact Pieces of Information
Sapere is the verb to use when discussing exact bits of information, such as numbers.
So quante banane ci sono nella ciotola. (I know how many bananas are in the bowl.)
Sa pilotare un aereo. (She knows how to fly a plane.)
To Have an Awareness
Use sapere to indicate emotional awareness of an issue.
Sa come ci si sente ad essere felici. (He knows how it feels to be happy.)
Sanno com’è essere tristi. (They know how it is to be sad.)
Where to Practice Conoscere vs. Sapere
To truly master these verbs, you need to use them consistently.
Luckily, you can do this easily!
There are some fun, engaging and beneficial resources to help you nail down conoscere vs. sapere. And today, we’re going to discover five of them!
To reap the best benefits, practice with these resources often. Don’t move on to another grammar point until you feel confident in your ability to recognize and use these two verbs.
The University of Kentucky
These conoscere and sapere exercises from the University of Kentucky are a super way to get some practice with these verbs.
The fill-in-the-blank, dialogue and conjugation questions are all valuable resources for Italian learners.
They’re perfect for a fast and simple yet effective practice session, and the exercises are suitable for all levels of learners.
Did you know you can master tricky Italian grammar points like conoscere vs. sapere with internet videos?
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
With FluentU, you can browse a library filled with hundreds of fun videos in Italian. Just select your level (which ranges from beginner to advanced), find a video that looks entertaining and start learning!
Each video comes with vocabulary and grammar points for you to learn. And as you watch the video, if you come across a word you don’t know, just tap on it in the subtitles to instantly see its meaning, example sentences and images.
At the end of the video, take the self-quiz to measure your progress. And finally, never forget a word again by using FluentU’s spaced repetition flashcards, which store new vocab into your long-term memory.
If you’re ready to learn Italian with videos native speakers enjoy, try FluentU for free today!
Italian to Learn Free
Italian to Learn Free provides a great quiz to help learners gauge their knowledge of this grammar topic.
The test is fill-in-the-blank and entirely in Italian!
After completing the quiz, learners have the option to check answers instantly. So if you find that your score isn’t where you want it to be, take the quiz again! There’s no limit to the number of times you can quiz yourself.
Who doesn’t love to play games? Personally, if a game is in Italian, I find it irresistible!
Quia makes practicing with conoscere and sapere entertaining. Play their game as many times as you like—and gain confidence with these verbs as your skills increase!
This is another resource that’s useful for reinforcing the rules about these verbs. Even after you’ve acquired the skills to use them properly, it’s not a bad idea to periodically refresh your learning with these games!
Flashcards can be an Italian learner’s best friend.
They’re amusing to use (who doesn’t hold their breath when the card is flipped over to reveal the correct answer?) and they work.
They’ve been used to teach every subject under the sun—and they do a great job enhancing skills relevant to these verbs. Try the Quizlet flashcards on conoscere and sapere for some fast-paced learning!
And there you have it! The only guide you need to mastering conoscere vs. sapere.
Beginning learners should take it slow at first. Don’t expect to get every instance of “to know” correct. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes! We learn by making mistakes, so go for it and use these verbs.
If you use these words consistently, your skills will skyrocket. Give it some time and practice, and you’ll be one step closer to chatting like a native Italian!
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