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What's the Difference Between Connaître and Savoir?

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In French, there are two words to express the meaning “to know”: Connaître and Savoir. How are the two words different from each other? Are they interchangeable?

What's the Difference Between Connaître and Savoir?
Featured article photo: Québec City, Québec by Jeffrey Eisen (Unsplash License)

Both connaître and savoir means 'to know', but only connaître is followed by a noun. Before we explore some examples, let's review the conjugations for connaître in the present tense:

  • je connais
  • tu connais
  • il/elle connaît
  • nous connaissons
  • vous connaissez
  • ils/elles connaissent

Examples of using connaître followed by a noun (or nouns):

  • Connaissez-vous les projets qui ont été approuvés par le directeur général?
    = Do you know the projects which were approved by the managing director?
  • Je ne connais pas la réponse à cette question.
    = I do not know the answer to this question.

Now, let's review the conjugations for savoir in the present tense:

  • je sais
  • tu sais
  • il/elle sait
  • nous savons
  • vous savez
  • ils/elles savent

Savoir can be used in three ways:

1. Savoir is used in expressions like je sais 'I know', tu sais 'you know'.

  • Daniel va visiter la Belgique l'année prochaine.
    = Daniel will visit Belgium next year.

    Ah, je sais, il m'a dit ça hier.
    = Yeah, I know, he told me that yesterday.

2. Savoir is followed by a verb

Il sait écouter ses parents.
= He knows how to listen to his parents.

  • Nora sait être direct, tu peux lui demander des conseils.
    = Nora knows how to be straight forward, you can ask her for some advice.

3. Savoir is followed by que 'that'

  • Nous savons que cette décision n'était pas juste.
    = We know that this decision is not right.
  • Savez-vous que vous pouvez suivre les dernières nouvelles de ce site web?
    = Do you know that you can follow the latest news from this website?

So, connaître and savoir are not interchangeable.

To make it easy to remember, use connaître only when it's followed by a noun, and use savoir for everything else.

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