Verbs about knowing in Italian: Sapere and Conoscere
Both Italian verbs sapere and conoscere can be translated in English with the verb “to know”, but their meaning about “knowing” has different implications.
Sapere (which is a second conjugation irregular verb), means “to know” in the sense of
- knowing about a fact or a situation
- being able to do something (sapere + infinitive)
- knowing how to do something (sapere + infinitive)
Differently from the English verb “to know”, the Italian verb sapere usually requires a direct object. While in English we can say “I know”, in Italian we have to express the object and therefore we have say “Lo so” (I know it).
Conoscere (which is a second conjugation regular verb), on the other hand, means “to know” in the sense of:
- knowing (being acquaintance with) someone
- knowing (being familiar with) an area, town, restaurant, etc.
Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the verb sapere.
- To express knowledge about a fact or situation, or awareness about a piece of information:
Sai che Luisa e Mattia sono sposati?
Do you know that Luisa and Mattia are married?
Non so la risposta giusta.
I don’t know the right answer.
Mi scusi, sa dov’è la fermata dell’autobus?
Excuse me, do you know where the bus stop is? (Formal)
- To express ability (being able to do something, or know how to do something):
Sapere + verb (infinitive)
Lorenzo non sa nuotare.
Lorenzo can’t swim.
Sai suonare il pianoforte?
Do you know how to play the piano?
Tutti gli italiani sanno cucinare la pizza?
Do all Italians know how to make pizza?
Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the verb conoscere.
- To talk about knowing a person (both for people who we have just met or people that we know well) :
Conosci Marcella?- Certo che la conosco, è la mia vicina di casa!
Do you know Marcella? – Of course I know her, she is my neighbor.
- To talk about a place we are familiar with:
Filippo conosce i migliori ristoranti della città!
Filippo knows the best restaurants in town!
Non conosco questa zona, quindi ho bisogno di consultare una mappa.
I’m not familiar with this area, so I need to use a map.
Audio lessons to practice sapere vs conoscere
To practice sapere vs conoscere, take Lesson 20 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.