Connaître vs savoir = to know something vs to know how to do

There are two verbs that mean to know in French connaître and savoir.

 

Savoir

Savoir is usually used with a clause; that is, a group of words including a conjugated verb. These clauses can be introduced by words like que, qui, quand, où, combien, ce que, ce qui, etc., to express the knowledge of facts (i.e. I know that/who/when/where...):

Je sais qu'il vient ce soir.
I know that he's coming tonight.

Il sait ce que tu veux.
He knows what you want.

Tu ne sais pas qui l'a fait.
You don't know who did it.

Ray sait combien d'allumettes il y a dans la boîte.
Ray knows how many matches there are in the box.

Elle ne sait pas où elle va.
She doesn't know where she's going.

Ils savent à quelle heure le magasin ferme.
They know what time the shop closes.

Je ne sais pas ce qui se passe.
I don't know what's going on.

Savoir can also be followed by an infinitive to express how to do [something], which can be equivalent to can do [something] in the sense of having a skill.

Il sait jouer aux échecs.
He knows how to play chess.  
He can play chess.

Savez-vous parler français ?
Do you know how to speak French?
Can you speak French?

Nous savons faire des muffins.
We know how to make muffins.
We can make muffins.

Connaître

Connaître is followed by a noun, which can be a person, place, thing, or a fact (I know [someone]/[something]):

Je connais Marc.
I know Marc.

Elle connaît bien Paris.
She knows Paris well.

Est-ce que tu connais Philippe?
Do you know Philippe?

Elle connaît cette recette par cœur.
She knows that recipe by heart.

Ils connaissent l'horaire de fermeture du magasin.
They know the shop closing time.

In some cases relating to abstract things, both verbs can be used colloquially.

Je connais la vérité.
I know the truth.

Je sais la vérité.
I know the truth.

Je sais la réponse.
I know the answer.

Je connais la réponse.
I know the answer.

To know how to conjugate these two verbs in Le Présent, see:

Conjugate connaître, paraître and derivatives in Le Présent (present tense)

Conjugate savoir in Le Présent (present tense)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Je ne sais pas ce qui se passe.
I don't know what's going on.


Tu ne sais pas qui l'a fait.
You don't know who did it.


Je sais la vérité.
I know the truth.


Ils savent à quelle heure le magasin ferme.
They know what time the shop closes.


Je connais la vérité.
I know the truth.


Ils connaissent l'horaire de fermeture du magasin.
They know the shop closing time.


Elle ne sait pas où elle va.
She doesn't know where she's going.


Je sais la réponse.
I know the answer.


Je connais la réponse.
I know the answer.


Elle connaît cette recette par cœur.
She knows that recipe by heart.


Ray sait combien d'allumettes il y a dans la boîte.
Ray knows how many matches there are in the box.



Nous savons faire des muffins.
We know how to make muffins.
We can make muffins.


Il sait ce que tu veux.
He knows what you want.


connaître


Je connais Marc.
I know Marc.


Est-ce que tu connais Philippe?
Do you know Philippe?


Elle connaît bien Paris.
She knows Paris well.


savoir


Il sait jouer aux échecs.
He knows how to play chess.  
He can play chess.


Savez-vous parler français ?
Do you know how to speak French?
Can you speak French?


Je sais qu'il vient ce soir.
I know that he's coming tonight.


Q&A Forum 7 questions, 11 answers

JoanA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I know the existence of a celebrity, I know her name, but I don't met her personally and not a friend of her. I should use say 'Je la sais/connais'?

Asked 1 week ago
ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Bonjour Joan !

You would say - Je la ‘connais’.

The reason is the rule-

1. Connaître - To be used if we need to emphasise on “knowing a person, place, or a noun( used as an object)

2. Savoir - To be used if we emphasise on knowing how an action is being done/ completed ( with the help of a verb)

For example -> 

Knowing how to make/ prepare a dish uses “savoir” whereas Knowing the instructions/ recipe of the dish uses “ connaître”.

Hope this helps !

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Joan,

You definitely wouldn't say "Je la sais". I think you probably could say "Je la connais", but if you are afraid that might be misunderstood then you would have to be more specific - e.g. "Je sais qui c'est" = "I  know who she is".

You might find this article useful:

https://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/french-vocabulary/savoir-versus-connaitre-the-verb-to-know-in-french/

I know the existence of a celebrity, I know her name, but I don't met her personally and not a friend of her. I should use say 'Je la sais/connais'?

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Claudia A2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Qui ou Que

Salut a tous

Tu ne sais pas qui l'a fait.  You don't know who did it.

and

Je ne sais pas ce qui se passe.  I don't know what's going on.

We have here QUI as who and QUI as what.

How do I know to use QUI rather than QUE for what

Merci

Asked 5 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

The distinction is that "what" is ce qui and "who" is just qui.

Qui ou Que

Salut a tous

Tu ne sais pas qui l'a fait.  You don't know who did it.

and

Je ne sais pas ce qui se passe.  I don't know what's going on.

We have here QUI as who and QUI as what.

How do I know to use QUI rather than QUE for what

Merci

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ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Bonjour ! Nous savons faire des muffins. I hear the ‘s’ of muffins pronounced though ‘s’ in not pronounced in ‘tables’. Any exception?

Asked 9 months ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Shrey !

Actually, here in French, you shouldn't hear the "s", though the word is originally English.

Thanks for pointing it out, I've now updated the audio file :)

Bonne journée !

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Thank you for your support 

Bonjour ! Nous savons faire des muffins. I hear the ‘s’ of muffins pronounced though ‘s’ in not pronounced in ‘tables’. Any exception?

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StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Connaitre v savoir ... knowledge of 'facts'.

The two sentences below look almost exactly the same, in both 'they' know a fact (what time the shop closes).

Presumably, then, its just that in the 2nd sentence the verb is followed by a noun and that alone determins that 'conaitre' should be used, (and it's nothing to do with 'they' knowing a fact)?

Ils savent à quelle heure le magasin ferme. They know what time the shop closes.

Ils connaissent l'horaire de fermeture du magasin.
They know the shop closing time.

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Stewart,

Normally the difference between 'Savoir' and 'Connaître' is simplified in the following way:

Savoir = to know facts

Connaître to know people and places

But as the lesson points out it is a bit more complicated than this.

Ils savent que le magasin ferme à vingt heures = They know (that) the shop closes at eight p.m.

Ils connaissent l'heure de fermeture du magasin = They know the shop closing time 

Indeed the difference here although similar in meaning is, 

Savoirque (or ce que, ce qui ...) is followed by another sentence. (You cannot say,  je connais que ...)

e.g. Je sais ce qu'il va me dire = I know what he is going to tell me

Nous savons ce qu'ils préfèrent = We know what they like best

Connaître  is followed by an article or a noun 

e.g. Il connaît bien Marie/Paris He knows Marie/Paris well

Vous connaîssez les Champs Elysées ? = Do you know the Champs Elysées?

Hope this helps!

StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thank you Cécile ... yes I'm 'with it' now.
DinaA2Kwiziq community member

Hi Stewart.

I have encountered recently a very good explanation, that has closed the questions "connaitre-savoir" for me, hope this will be helpful. 

Whenerver there is a subject (or a noun) following "to know" we use connaitre. Je connais l'horaire (noun) de....

In rest of cases we use savoir, e.g Ils savent a quelle heure (an expression starting with a preposition)

You can check all of the above examples, and find out that this simple rule works very well. It's been given by a French tutor to his Russian audience somewhere in internet, and i'm so thankful! 

Connaitre v savoir ... knowledge of 'facts'.

The two sentences below look almost exactly the same, in both 'they' know a fact (what time the shop closes).

Presumably, then, its just that in the 2nd sentence the verb is followed by a noun and that alone determins that 'conaitre' should be used, (and it's nothing to do with 'they' knowing a fact)?

Ils savent à quelle heure le magasin ferme. They know what time the shop closes.

Ils connaissent l'horaire de fermeture du magasin.
They know the shop closing time.

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LenB2Kwiziq community member

Je sais la vérité + Je connais la vérité both appear above. Both ok?

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi Len, as mentioned in the lesson, Je sais la vérité as well as Je connais la vérité are both correct, while the former is used more in a colloquial context.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Je sais la vérité + Je connais la vérité both appear above. Both ok?

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CaryC1Kwiziq community member

above, "Claire knows how to drive" is not listed among the answers. Shouldn't it be? Cary

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Cary, The fact is that "savoir " which means "to know how to " can also be translated by "can " in the sense of a skill. Therefore, though you could also translate this sentence by "Claire knows how to drive", you couls also use "Claire can drive". Thanks to your useful feedback, I decided to add this precision to the main lesson. Merci et à bientôt !

above, "Claire knows how to drive" is not listed among the answers. Shouldn't it be? Cary

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ChrisB2Kwiziq community member

When is a fact not a fact

If someone knows when a shop is open, which is a fact, why is savoir used instead of connaître?
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Chris !

Very good question, thank you very much !

The lesson needed to be clearer on which structures are used with either verb.

Savoir is usually followed by a clause with a conjugated verb (know where he goes, what I'm doing ...) or an infinitive (know [how] to do something):
-> Ils savent à quelle heure le magasin ferme.   (They know at what time the shop closes.)

Connaître is followed by a noun (know <something>):
-> Ils connaissent l'horaire de fermeture du magasin.  (They know the shop closing time.)

These precisions have been added to the main lesson.

Merci et à bientôt !

When is a fact not a fact

If someone knows when a shop is open, which is a fact, why is savoir used instead of connaître?

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