Conocer vs Saber:

Made Easy!


By Adam Skelton

YOU know who I’m talking about.

Those little doppelgangers. Tricky, sneaky…deadly. 

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating just a wee bit. But knowing when to use Conocer vs Saber (which both translate as “To Know”) is a common stumbling block for Spanish learners. Here’s our guide to telling them apart.

It’s EASY!

Like Por and Para and Ser and Estar, Conocer and Saber are two Spanish words with similar meanings but crucial, subtle differences. A common mistake is to plough on ahead without stopping to learn the rules of the likes of Conocer vs Saber.

I have been learning Spanish for eighteen years. Now I know the differences between Saber and Conocer (Ahora yo las diferencias entre Saber y Conocer). However, I’ll admit that it definitely took me more time than it should have before I was using them both correctly and consistently.

I started out as the kind of foreign language student who avidly avoided studying. I was sure that the best way to learn Spanish was solely by immersion in the language and culture. I was fortunate to be living in Spain with my then girlfriend, now wife, and her family. When I met her family for the first time I knew no Spanish at all (Cuando conocí a su familia por primera vez no sabía nada de español). They were incredibly supportive, I was a good listener (and nodder) and I achieved a fairly decent level of Spanish quite quickly.

Conocer vs Saber no more mistakes


No more silly mistakes

Living and working in Spain, I was fairly confident with my Spanish but was making all sorts of silly errors due to my aversion to studying the language. Eventually my frustration drove me to get serious and hit the books!

I remember one of the first things I learned was the difference between Conocer vs Saber. I haven’t changed my mind on the benefits of language immersion. But I know now that it is best to accompany language immersion with studying and it’s important to know a few good books and reference guides, like this one! (Pero ahora que es mejor acompañar la inmersión lingüística con estudios y que es importante conocer algunos buenos libros de texto y guías de referencia, ¡como esta!)


Your “Easy” guide to Conocer vs Saber

What’s the ONE rule you ought to remember about using Conocer vs Saber?


Saber is used when we are referring to skills, information or facts. Saber translates in English to To know how/about or Can/Be able to.


Conocer is used when we are referring to people, places, or things. Conocer translates in English to To meet for the first time or To get to know or To know.


Conjugating Conocer and Saber

Before we move on to look at example sentences of Conocer and Saber in use, let’s see how the two verbs are conjugated. You don’t need to memorise these right off the bat, but keep these handy as a reference. Give yourself time to process the conjugations and practice with them as much as possible until they become second nature.



You’ll see that Conocer and Saber are regular in all conjugations except the first person (Sé and Conozco).

Yo Conozco
Sabes Conoces
Él / Ella / Usted Sabe Conoce
Nosotros / Nosotras Sabemos Conocemos
Vosotros / Vosotras Sabéis Conocéis
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Saben Conocen


Present Perfect

Conocer and Saber are both regular.

Yo He
Él / Ella / Usted Ha Sabido Conocido
Nosotros / Nosotras Hemos
Vosotros / Vosotras Habeis
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Han



Conocer is regular and Saber is irregular.

Yo Sabré Conoceré
Sabrás Conocerás
Él / Ella / Usted Sabrá Conocerá
Nosotros / Nosotras Sabremos Conoceremos
Vosotros / Vosotras Sabréis Conoceréis
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Sabrán Conocerán



Conocer is regular and Saber is irregular.

Yo Sabría Conocería
Sabrías Conocerías
Él / Ella / Usted Sabría Conocería
Nosotros / Nosotras Sabríamos Conoceríamos
Vosotros / Vosotras Sabríais Conoceríais
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Sabrían Conocerían


Past tense

Conocer and Saber are regular in all instances except for Saber in El Preterito Indefinido where it is very irregular.

Yo Supe Conocí Sabía Conocía
Supiste Conociste Sabías Conocías
Él / Ella / Usted Supo Conoció Sabía Conocía
Nosotros / Nosotras Supimos Conocimos Sabíamos Conocíamos
Vosotros / Vosotras Supisteis Conocisteis Sabíais Conocíais
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes Supieron Conocieron Sabían Conocían


Maybe you already knew how to conjugate Saber and Conocer. If you did, wonderful. If you didn’t, you do now. Now you know the conjugations of Saber and Conocer (Ahora sabes las conjugaciones de Saber y Conocer).


When to use Conocer vs Saber

Now let’s get to the tricky (and fun!) part. When do we use Conocer and when do we use Saber? Here are a few example sentences to illustrate the uses and the subtle differences between the two verbs:



Conocer vs Saber knowing how to do things


  1. Skills (knowing how to do things)

Do you know how to play the violin as well as the piano?
¿Sabes tocar el violín tan bien como el piano?

I know you speak Spanish and German but do you know how to speak French?
que hablas español y alemán, pero ¿sabes hablar francés?

I don’t know how to drive and I want to leave the city and live in the countryside. Do you think I should learn?
No sé conducir y quiero irme de la ciudad y vivir en el campo, ¿crees que debo aprender?

They know how to cook many Indian, Mexican and Thai dishes, but they know very little about Spanish food.
Saben cocinar muchos platos indios, mejicanos y tailandeses, pero saben muy poco sobre la comida española.


  1. Information (knowing details and data)

Do you (to a group of people) know when the next train arrives? We know there is a train at two o’clock but is there one before?
¿Saben cuándo llega el próximo tren? Sabemos que hay un tren a las dos en punto, pero ¿hay alguno antes?

I knew that the exam would last four hours. However, I didn’t know if we would have a break.
Sabía que el examen duraría cuatro horas. Sin embargo, no sabía si tendríamos un descanso.

I don’t know how much that computer costs. Ask Miguel. He knows much more about technology than me.
No sé cuánto cuesta ese ordenador. Pregúntale a Miguel. Sabe mucho más de tecnología que yo.

Does your father know where Sara lives? I know she lives somewhere in Madrid, but I don’t know in which neighbourhood.
¿Tu padre sabe dónde vive Sara? que vive en algún lugar de Madrid, pero no sé en qué barrio.


  1. Facts (knowing actualities, events, trivia)

Do you know that the river Nile is the longest river in the world? No, I didn’t know that. I thought it was the Amazon.
¿Sabes que el río Nilo es el río más largo del mundo? No, no lo sabía. Pensaba que era el Amazonas.

My daughter when she was little said that she knew the names of every single child in her school. I believe she knew the names of everyone in her year, but not in the entire school.
Mi hija cuando era pequeña decía que sabía los nombres de todos los niños de su escuela. Creo que ella sabía los nombres de todos los de su curso, pero no los de toda la escuela.

The children know that the sun is over 100 times wider than the Earth, but they don’t know how big Jupiter is in comparison with the earth.
Los niños saben que el sol es más de 100 veces más ancho que la Tierra, pero no saben lo grande que es Júpiter en comparación con la tierra.

Do you (to a group of people) know that peanuts aren’t nuts, they are legumes. Beans and peas are also legumes.
¿Saben que los cacahuetes no son frutos secos, son legumbres? Las alubias y los guisantes también son legumbres.



Conocer vs Saber meeting for the first time

  1. People (meeting someone for the first time, getting to know them, knowing them)

I remember the day I first met you. We met each other in Barcelona in the winter of 2005.
Recuerdo el día en que te conocí. Nos conocimos en Barcelona en el invierno de 2005.

Do you know my brother Juan? He told me that he met you the other day.
¿Conoces a mi hermano Juan? Me dijo que te conoció el otro día.

How long have you known Sandra? I have known her for twenty years.
¿Desde hace cuánto tiempo conoces a Sandra? La conozco desde hace veinte años.

I am looking forward to getting to know Julia better. She seems likes a very nice person.
Espero conocer mejor a Julia. Parece una persona muy agradable.

  1. Places (knowing somewhere)

Do you (to a group of people) know Pepe’s bar? It’s in the south of Madrid. I know many bars in Madrid and that is the best.
¿Conocen el bar de Pepe? Está en el sur de Madrid. Conozco muchos bares en Madrid y ese es el mejor.

I don’t know Australia. I have never been there. I know New Zealand as I was there last year, but I didn’t visit Australia.
No conozco Australia. Nunca he estado allí. Conozco Nueva Zelanda ya que estuve allí el año pasado, pero no visité Australia.

If you want to know the best places to ski in Spain, speak to Alfredo. He knows all the best Spanish ski resorts.
Si quieres conocer los mejores lugares para esquiar en España, habla con Alfredo. Conoce las mejores estaciones de esquí españolas.

You have been living in Bilbao for five years and you still don’t know any of the museums! Don’t you even know the Guggenheim?
¡Llevas cinco años viviendo en Bilbao y todavía no conoces ninguno de los museos! ¿Ni siquiera conoces el Guggenheim?

  1. Things (knowing about something because of experience or knowledge)

I am familiar with that breed of dog because I used to have one as a pet. They are very calm and friendly.
Conozco esa raza de perro porque solía tener uno de mascota. Son muy tranquilos y cariñosos.

You don’t know the Pink Floyd album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’? It is one of the biggest selling albums ever.
¿No conoces el álbum de Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side of the Moon’? Es uno de los álbumes más vendidos de la historia.

Do you (to a group of people) know the brand of Spanish beer, Mahou? No?! Well, you (to a group of people) must be familiar with San Miguel!
¿Conocen la marca de cerveza española, Mahou? ¡¿No?! Bueno, ¡deben de conocer San Miguel!

I didn’t know this film. I knew the last film starring that actor and it was worse than this one.
No conocía esta película. Conocía la última película protagonizada por este actor y era peor que esta.

Lots of examples, I know! (¡Lo sé!)

But hopefully by reviewing the detailed context you will be able to better appreciate the distinctions of Conocer vs Saber.

Both Conocer and Saber more or less translate as To know in English but that ‘more or less’ is the difference between speaking good Spanish and great Spanish! I know you. You want to speak great Spanish! (Te conozco. ¡Quieres hablar español muy bien!).

Follow the rules

I waited six years before taking the time to learn the simple rules of Conocer vs Saber. Six years of making silly and often incomprehensible mistakes. Now I know to pause every time I come across a Conocer vs Saber, a Para vs Por, or a Ser vs Estar and think through the relevant rules. It doesn’t take long and keeps you from forming bad habits in the long run.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did

Here are some examples of the errors I remember making with Conocer vs Saber:

El sur de España

Mistake: No sé el sur de España muy bien.
Correction: No conozco el sur de España muy bien.

Conocer is used because the south of Spain is not information or a fact, it is a place.

Mistake: No sé nadie aquí.
Correction: No conozco a nadie aquí.

Conocer is used here because we are talking about knowing people. Also the personal preposition ‘a’ was forgotten (more on this later).

Mistake: Yo conozco español.
Correction: Yo sé español.

Saber is used because Spanish is information and skill that is learned.

Mistake: ¿Conoces dónde está la estación de autobuses?
Correction: ¿Sabes dónde está la estación de autobuses?

Saber is used in this sentence because we are looking for information.

Confusion with other similar verbs

Encontrarse con (to meet someone you already know by chance)

Mistake: He encontrado tu prima Silvia esta mañana.
Correction: He conocido a tu prima Silvia esta mañana.

Conocer is used when you meet someone for the first time.

Poder (can/to be able to)

Mistake: Yo puedo tocar la guitarra.
Correction: Yo sé tocar la guitarra.

Saber is used to describe learned abilities, such as knowing how to play a musical instrument. Poder is used when describing things you can or can’t do/are able to do or not do in terms of capability or probability, but not to describe things you have learned.

The personal preposition ‘a’

Forgetting to use it:

Mistake: No conozco tu hermano.
Correction: No conozco a tu hermano.

The preposition ‘a’ must be used after Conocer when you know a person.

Using it where you shouldn’t:

Mistake: Conozco a Bilbao.
Correction: Conozco Bilbao.

The preposition ‘a’ is only used after Conocer with people and never places or things

I know the differences between Conocer and Saber (Yo sé las diferencias entre Conocer y Saber)

As with the conjugations, don’t be too hard on yourself and expect to remember and use all of the Conocer vs Saber rules perfectly over night. Start by focusing on the general rules. Saber is used when we are referring to skills, information or facts (To know how/about or Can/Be able to) and Conocer is used when we are referring to people, places, or things (To meet for the first time or To get to know or To know).

Once you get your head around the basic rules, you will start seeing Conocer and Saber in a different light and your errors will disappear!

Lo .

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