Conoscere vs. Sapere in Italian: The Two Verbs of Knowing

Did you know there are two ways to say “to know” in Italian?

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. Read on to get started.

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Understanding When to Use Conoscere vs. Sapere

Conoscere is used to convey knowledge of things, people and places, while sapere is used to describe information and facts.

So if you know a person or what the latest celebrity gossip is, use conoscere. If you know the date of an event or how to find the train station, use sapere.

When To Use 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 specific 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.)

When to Use Sapere

To know a fact, data and information

When you need to state something factual, data-related or information, 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.)

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.)

Sa pilotare un aereo. (She knows how to fly a plane.)

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 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.)

Conoscere vs. Sapere Conjugation Forms

Both conoscere and sapere are irregular -ere verbs.

This means that the ordinary conjugation rules for that type of verb don’t apply.

Let’s check out the conjugations for these important Italian verbs now.

ConoscereSapere
io conosco so
tu conosci sai
lui / lei conosce sa
noi conosciamo sappiamo
voi conoscete sapete
loro conoscono sanno

Where to Practice Conoscere vs. Sapere

To truly master these verbs, you need to use them consistently. Here are some fun, engaging and beneficial resources to help you nail down conoscere vs. sapere.

  • The University of Kentucky

    These fill-in-the-blank conoscere and sapere exercises from the University of Kentucky are a super way to get some practice with these verbs. Try them out to see how many you get right.

  • FluentU

    On this immersive language learning program, you can search for these verbs to hear them used in context by native speakers.

  • Italian to Learn Free

    This simple quiz is fill-in-the-blank and entirely in Italian. After completing it, learners have the option to check answers instantly to see how well you’ve done.

  • Quia

    Who doesn’t love to play games? 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!

  • Quizlet

    Flashcards can be an Italian learner’s best friend. They’re amusing to use, and they’re super effective.

 

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 improve. Give it some time and practice, and you’ll be one step closer to chatting like a native Italian!

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