1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

connaître / savoir (translating "to know")

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Maître Capello, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    To translate "to know" into French, should I use connaître or savoir?

    Moderator note: This question is very frequent and has been discussed extensively on our forums. We have merged most discussions here. This thread is therefore very long but it is also quite complete. If you don't have the time to read it through, you may want to have a look at the quick—though incomplete—summary below. If you are still unsure which verb to use in your specific example after reading the whole thread, please don't open another discussion but ask your question here. Thanks!

    Quick summary:
    • Only savoir can introduce a verb in the infinitive or a subordinate clause, never connaître (e.g., Je sais nager, Je sais que tu es en colère, Je sais quand il sera là).
    • Only connaître is used when talking about people, not savoir (e.g., Je connais ton frère).
    • Savoir typically means:
      • to be skilled in some art or profession (e.g., Je sais peindre, Je sais fabriquer des chaises.)
      • to be capable of, to have the power or talent of doing something (e.g., Je sais compter jusqu'à cent.)
      • to be aware of something (e.g., Je sais que le ciel est bleu.)
      • to hold something in one's memory so as to be able to repeat it (e.g., Je sais ma poésie.)
    • Connaître typically means:
      • to have gained knowledge or skill in some domain (e.g., Je connais bien mon métier.)
      • to have knowledge or understanding of something (e.g., Je connais le sens du mot « désespoir », Je connais la réponse à cette question.)
      • to be informed about the existence or value of something (e.g., Je connais cette chanson, Je connais la valeur du savoir.)
      • to know someone (e.g., Je connais Marc, Je connais les gens qui habitent ici.)
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2012
  2. Markus

    Markus Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Canada - English
    Bonjour, j'ai une question sur l'emploi de savoir et connaître. Comme anglophone, cette distinction est difficile pour moi, mais je la comprends pour la plupart. Ma question c'est, quelle phrase ci-dessous est la meilleur?

    1. Je connais le français
    2. Je sais parler français

  3. eduardosl Senior Member

    The best translation for "I speak/know French" is "je parle le francais" as far as I know
  4. charlie2 Senior Member

    I think we say Je connais le mot "connaissance". Connaître is for knowledge. So I would vote for connaître ;) .
    An example from my dictionary (Collins Robert) : Il a de bonnes connaissances en anglais.
    The real answer will come soon. :)
  5. Ze Zeum Junior Member

    "Je sais parler français" is right too, but only if you want to stress that you actually know how to speak french.
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  6. Didier_S

    Didier_S Senior Member

    France - French
    Correct and equivalent :

    Je sais parler français.
    Je connais le français.

    "Savoir" doesn't no more mean "Connaître" in the modern French language.
    You can find it with this meaning in literature, in a few expressions...

    "Savoir" with another verb is always frequent : "Je sais nager", "Je sais peindre", etc.
    In Belgium, "savoir" is used instead of "pouvoir".
  7. chamizo New Member

    USA, Atlanta
    mes amis!
    please please help me. i started learning french not so long ago, and i got a bit confused with these verbs. the only difference i know between them is that "connaitre" is used when talking about people, as in "i know him"
    i think i need a lot of examples to be able to know which one to use in different contexts
    thanking you all in advance!
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  8. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    I think that basically you can refer "connaître" to "to know" and "savoir" to "to be aware of"

  9. Gil Senior Member

    Français, Canada
  10. chamizo New Member

    USA, Atlanta
    then if i want to say : "i know his name" what should i use?
    or for example someone has just told you somethinng and you say
    "i knew it already"
  11. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    "je connais son nom" and "je le savais déjà / j'en étais dèjà au courant"
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  12. Gil Senior Member

    Français, Canada
    1 Je sais son nom
    2 Je le savais déjà.

    Autres possibilités:
    Je le connais bien, mais j'ai oublié son nom.
    Je sais son nom, mais je ne le connais pas vraiment.
  13. chamizo New Member

    USA, Atlanta
    thanks a lot, i liked the examples very much and they are of great help!
    so i can say:
    (of course)je sais son nom -(because) je le connais bien
    i know how to read "je sais lire"
    i know how to cook "je sais ..."
    - savoir, in other words used to talk about practical knowledge, what you have learnt and now know?
    i know the way to his house - savoir?
    and is it possible to say: i know french (not yet actually:) je sais francais, or i should say "je sais parler francais?
    (sorry je n'ai pas de french keybord)

    also how can i ask "how to say (something) in french?"
    like in how to say " world" in french

    thanks a lot, i think it's a great luck that i came across this forum
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  14. Jean-Michel Carrère Senior Member

    French from France
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  15. LeoO

    LeoO Junior Member

    France, Clermont-fd
    france , français
    I thought the same when I found this forum.
    There are lot of people who give their time to help you. (que je remercie)
    And you can have a very quick answer :)

    Both "je sais lire" and " je sais cuisiner" are right
    "I know the way to his house"
    I'm not sure if we can translate by "je connais le chemin pour aller chez lui"
    if it's the case we use "connaitre"
    otherwise if you translate by "je sais où il habite"
    you use "savoir"
    Well my english still quite bad so my translation may be wrong

    And "how to say (something) in french"
    I'll say "Comment on dit (quelque chose) en français?"
    For example : Comment on dit "a motor bike" en français?

    I hope that will help you a bit :)
  16. chamizo New Member

    USA, Atlanta
    hi Leo
    thank you very much for "je sais ou il habite", i think it's just what should be said, i was just trying to make word for word translation.
    by the way your english sounds (or should i say looks:)quite well
    see you soon again
    merci pour tout
  17. JazzByChas

    JazzByChas Senior Member

    I believe that Gil pretty much nailed it on the head in post #12!
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  18. Jessila

    Jessila Senior Member

    France, french
    I don't think I could tell you why but we would indeed say
    "je sais où il habite" but "je connais le chemin pour aller chez lui / elle"
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  19. Ahmed Junior Member

    Urdu, Pakistan
    So would you say "Je sais son nom" or "Je connais son nom"?

    Secondly, would you say:

    Je ne retrouve pas mes notes. Vous savez les notes de notre réunion?


    Je ne retrouve pas mes notes. Vous connaissez les notes de notre réunion?
  20. Auryn

    Auryn Senior Member

    France, French
    When the verb is followed by a noun, connaître is better: "je connais son nom."

    Neither ;)

    "Vous savez où sont les notes de notre réunion?"
  21. Auryn

    Auryn Senior Member

    France, French

    Pour moi, ni "vous savez les notes" ni "vous connaissez les notes" n'a de sens. A moins qu'Ahmed ait voulu dire: "Je ne trouve pas mes notes. Vous savez, les notes de notre réunion?" ce qui changerait tout.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2009
  22. sandera

    sandera Senior Member

    I know both mean "to know"
    Je sais=to know about things?
    Je connais=to know people?

    When does one use "savoir"...fact?
  23. Lezert

    Lezert Senior Member

    french, France
    we use "savoir" , when "to know" describes a verb
    (ex: = to know how to speak )
    je sais parler anglais, je sais que les anglais boivent du thé, je sais que la terre est ronde

    and connaître when "to know" describes a name
    (ex: I know him )
    je connais son père, je connais cette ville

    je sais où il habite ( I know where he lives)
    je connais son adresse ( I know his direction )

    je sais parler français ( I knw how to speak french)
    je connais le français ( I know french language)
  24. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    In my experience there is not always a clear distinction between the usage of these two verbs (savoir is easier to pin down/ connaître more difficult), at least one that English speakers can directly equate to a specific usage of the English verb "to know."

    savoir - to know (facts), to know how to
    Je sais ce que vous voulez dire.
    Je sais nager.

    But I've noticed that connaître can be used in ways we use "know/savoir" in English:

    connaître - to know, to be aware of, to be familiar with - persons and objects

    Je connais cet homme.

    Je connais ce livre (I know that book) ou je connais à fond ce livre. (I'm thoroughly acquainted with this book/I know this book well.)
  25. epistolario

    epistolario Senior Member

    I said the ff to my French teacher in our class:

    Si je ne sais pas la réponse, je ne parle pas.

    He suggested that I use connais, instead. Why? Can you also use sais in some context? I'm asking you because I prefer an explanation in English. Thanks in advance.
  26. Lezert

    Lezert Senior Member

    french, France
    Yes, you can use "savoir", but followed by verb, ("connaitre" is followed by a noun) :
    je sais répondre
    je connais la réponse
  27. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    But je sais la réponse would mean you learned and absolutely know the expected answer (for example, for a test)
    "I know the answer/I have it down cold"
  28. tonbo Senior Member

    Je voudrais savoir/je voudrais connâitre

    Which would be the right one in a sentence like "I would like to get the email address of X" or "I would like to know where X is . . ."

    I know they're very different sentences, but is there some accepted rule with these verbs?

    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  29. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Savoir is the right verb to use here. You would use connaître for visiting some place or meeting someone.
  30. PoisonedQuill Senior Member

    Spain - Spanish
    Hi there.

    I need to explain the purpose of a clock in a simple sentence and I wanted to say that it let us know the time, but I'm not sure if I should translate "know" as "savoir" or as "connaître" and I don't know if "time" should be "heure" or "temps".

    The structure of the sentence would be:

    "[une horloge] On l'utilise pour <savoir/connaître> <l'heure/le temps>".

    Thanks a lot.
  31. marget Senior Member

    I think you can say "pour savoir l'heure qu'il est".
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  32. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    Une horloge nous montre l'heure (a clock tells us the time). If you must use one of the verbs you mention it is savoir, not connaître here. In Spanish you have cognates of both savoir and connaître that are used in similar ways to the French forms. Roughly speaking savoir is to know a fact, whereas connaître is to know a person or to be to some extent familiar with something. Lets us know the time would personify the clock, which might possibly occur in poetical style. But une horloge nous fait savoir l'heure sounds OK to me.
    As for heure it means either a period of sixty minutes or a point in time when something occurs or is scheduled to do so: l'heure de départ; J'ai passé de longues heures à la bibliothèque. Le temps, besides meaning weather, is time in a more general sense: il n'y a plus de temps; il est temps de le faire.
  33. aunutr New Member

    how different of two words?
  34. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Hello, welcome to the WR forums.

    can't be used for material things (like places or people) you know.
    About abstract things, both verbs are almost synonyms, but savoir is more commonly used. I'd say it implies a better, deeper knowledge of the known thing.

    In other words, most of the time, you can safely use connaître for material things and savoir for abstract ones.

    I should have check before to answer, because several threads already exist about this topic.
    This one, for example, will give you more details: [link removed]

    Please, before to ask a question in the forums, check in the dictionary part of WR if it hasn't been already asked (search the word in the dictionary and check the threads list available there).
    Thanks a lot.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2009
  35. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    Welcome to the Forum, aunutr!

    tilt gives you a good explanation of the difference in these two verbs from a native's perspective.

    But for a non-native, maybe it's good to know that the concept of choosing connaître vs. savoir for know is not very clear to English speakers until they learn some key examples. (French-speakers have the same challenge when they have to decide if faire should be make or do in English.)

    You can find lots of examples and explanations if you use the dictionary look-up at the top of this page. Just type in both verbs and there are lots of discussions about them already.
  36. PatBParis Senior Member

    paris sacré coeur
    according to me :
    Nearly the same but
    connaître is much more about a sort of instinctive knowledge
    savoir is linked to a learning process
  37. Cristina Moreno Senior Member

    Salut les amis :)

    En lisant un article sur la différence entre "savoir" et "connaître", c'était écrit que l'on utilise "savoir" quand on sait quelque chose par coeur (entre autres), et "connaître quand we're familiar with something/someone (comment est-ce que ça se dit en français?) et "je connais Paris" était mise comme exemple qui signifie "I'm familiar with Paris".

    Ma qustion est: est-ce que l'on peut dire "je sais Paris" si l'on cherche à dire "I know Paris by heart" (as in I know every corner of Paris)?

    (Je vous prie de corriger toutes mes fautes)
  38. gracelandmansion Senior Member

    Nancy, FRANCE
    Non Cristina c'est incorrect.
    Tu peux dire seulement "je connais Paris par coeur"
  39. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Non, on dira par exemple : Je connais Paris comme ma poche.
    (Dans ce sens, on ne pourra jamais dire : « Je sais Paris »…)
  40. Slim Harpo Senior Member

    New York
    US English

    I know the official rules for using connaitre vs. savoir, but having lived in France, I seem to remember "Je connais l'adresse" -- I'm reading a text that says it must be "Je sais l'adresse." In spoken French, are both used in this case?
    Another similar example: Could you say, "Je connais son nom" ?

    Merci beaucoup de votre aide
  41. Broff Senior Member

    I believe both are fine, je sais l'addres is may be more colloquial.
  42. Love_Transforms_Babylon Junior Member


    Lequel est correct:

    Je sais où à/dans New York travaillent mes amies.


    Je connais où à/dans New York travaillent mes amies.

    Merci d'avance!
  43. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    « Je sais où à New York travaillent mes amies ».
  44. shrekspeare

    shrekspeare Senior Member

    South of France
    french and australian english (bilingual)
    "savoir quelque chose" (something)
    but "connaître quelqu'un"
  45. legalize_skateboarding99 Junior Member

    Bonjour à tous,
    Je me demandais simplement si ces deux termes étaient synonymes quand il s'agit des langues et des mots, c'est-à-dire, est-ce que je peux dire aussi bien "Je connais le français" que "Je sais le français", et tous les deux sont corrects? Je sais que celui-ci est correct, mais quant à celui-là, je n'en suis pas trop sûr.

    Et en outre, de quel mot faut-il se servir en parlant des mots. Par exemples, dit-on "Je connais ce mot" ou plutôt "Je sais ce mot"?

    Merci bien!
  46. b1947420 Senior Member

    Perhaps you should study the grammar of these two verbs and look at some applications.
    Briefly it is a matter of whether you are communicating a knowledge of fact (savoir) or a familiarity (connaître) with a subject.
    "Je connais ce mot" translates to "I am familiar with this word" against "Je sais ce mot" which translates to "I know this word."
    Maybe a native could help further.
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  47. b1947420 Senior Member

    They are both in current use but the context would set which verb to use in written or spoken French.
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  48. francais_espanol Senior Member

    Canada, English

    En général, je comprends la différence entre savoir et connaître, mais parfois j'ai des doutes.

    Voici quelques exemples:

    "Do you know his name ? "
    "Sais-tu son nom ?" ou "Connais-tu son nom?"

    "Do you know the way (to get there) "
    "Sais-tu le chemin? Connais-tu le chemin?"

    "I don't know the word in English."
    "Je ne connais pas le mot en anglais." "Je ne sais pas le mot en anglais"

    Merci d'avance pour votre aide.
  49. quinoa Senior Member

    In your examples, "connaître" is the best one.

    You are going to use savoir to express that you have or don't have some information.
    Je sais! Je ne sais pas! But Je connais la solution. Je ne connais pas la réponse.

    Then you will use "savoir" when after you have got the question that has been asked or must have been asked.

    Je ne sais pas s'il va venir.
    Je ne sais pas comment il s'appelle.
    Je ne sais pas il va.
    Je sais pourquoi il l'a fait.
    and I let you imagine many other examples.

    Je connais les raisons qui l'ont poussé à agir ainsi.
    Je le connais très bien. C'est un ami.
    Je connais le Mexique. J'y suis allé plusieurs fois.
  50. mylasalle Senior Member

    English - Philippines
    Hello, as a student in French, I am confused as to use of these two verbs which both mean "to know."

    Is it correct to assume that...
    Savoir is used for things or concepts and
    Connaitre is used for persons?

    Merci pour votre assistance

Share This Page