Savoir vs Connaître: To Know in French – Example Sentences

savoir vs connaitreIn French there are two ways to say to know: savoir and connaître. The uses of these verbs are very different and it’s very easy to confuse which one to use. In short, use savoir for facts and connaître for people. As time goes by you’ll develop a sense of which verb to use.

savoir – used for facts

The most important thing to say about savoir is that it’s used for facts. “I know the sky is blue”, “I know the earth is round”.

  • Le ciel est blue. Oui, je sais!
    The sky is blue. Yes, I know!
  • La terre est ronde. Oui, je sais!
    The earth is round. Yes, I know!

A quick exclamation of “I don’t know” or “who knows?” requires the use of savoir.

  • Je ne sais pas!  I don’t know!
  • Qui sait! Who knows!

Another key hint is that the savoir can be followed by the following:

  • que that
  • where
  • pourquoi why
  • comment how
  • si if
  • quand when
  • à quelle heure at what time

example sentences with savoir

  • Est-ce que tu sais s’il vient? Do you know if he’s coming?
  • Est-ce que tu sais il habite? Do you know where he lives?
  • Est-ce que tu sais comment il chante? Do you know how he sings?
  • Je sais que le ciel est bleu. I know the ski is blue.
  • Je ne sais pas quand il arrive. I don’t know when he’s arriving.
  • Est-ce que tu sais s’il fait beau. Do you know if it’s nice out?

Savoir + infinitive = know how to do something.

  • Est-ce que tu sais chanter? Do you know how to sing?
  • Oui, je sais chanter. Je chante très bien! Yes, I know how to sing. I sing very well!

uses of connaître

Connaître means to know, specifically to know a person, place or area of study.

A key hint here is that connaître cannot be followed by the words that can follow savoir such as que, où, quand, comment, etc. “Je connais que” is WRONG. Use “Je sais que + rest of sentences”.

example sentences with connaître

  • Je ne connais pas Jacques mais on m’a dit qu’il est très sympa. I don’t know Jacques but I heard he’s really nice.
  • Je connais bien l’histoire française. I know French history well.
  • Je connais Paris mais je ne connais pas Marseille. I know Paris but I don’t know Marseille.

For knowing a person connaître doesn’t have to mean having met face-to-face. It can be loosely translated to “know of” or “familiar with”

  • Tu ne connais pas ce chanteur? You don’t know this singer?
  • Tu ne connais pas ce film? C’est excellent! You don’t know this movie? It’s excellent!

Connaître: to have lived or experienced.

  • Il a connu un grand succès à partir de l’âge de 45 ans. He experienced a lot of success starting from the age of 45.

Connaître in the passé composé = met.

  • Elle a connu son vrai père à l’âge de vingt-huit ans. She met her real dad when she was 28 years-old.
  • Comment est-ce que tu as connu ta femme? How did you meet your wife.
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