Learning French Verbs: When to Use Connaitre and Savoir

French Verbs Conjugation: When to Use Connaitre and Savoir


Connaître and Savoir Conjugation: Two French Verbs To Know

You know the moon is made of green cheese (or not). You know the Bermuda Triangle is a fluke (or not?). You know your presidents backwards and forwards. You know your favorite movie forwards and backwards. You know your best friend like the palm of your hand – or do you? And how do you describe what you know – or how you know – in French?

Like its distinction between its second-person pronouns “tu” and “vous,” French also makes a distinction between two different ways in which the speaker might know something through its two verbs “savoir” and “connaître.”

“Savoir” is used for facts and information – statistically verifiable types of things.

For example:

I know that Paris is in France. Je sais que Paris se trouve en France.
I know that two and two is four. Je sais que deux et deux font quatre.
I know that Antoine is is not far away. Je sais qu’Antoine n’est pas loin.
I know how to speak French. Je sais parler français.

“Connaitre” is an irregular verb used to express knowledge of or familiarity with a person or place.

For example:

I know / am familiar with this building. Je connais ce batiment.
I know / am familiar with Paris. Je connais Paris.
I know / am familiar with my best friend. Je connais mon meilleur ami.

Both of these French verbs have somewhat irregular conjugation, so it is important to memorize them so you will use them correctly in context. Their conjugations have some similarities to each other, so this may make them easier for you to remember. In present tense, their conjugations are:

Connaître

Je (I) connais.
Tu (you, singular) connais.
Il / Elle (He / She) connaît.
Nous (We) connaissons.
Vous (You pl.) connaissez.
Ils / Elles (They) connaisent.

Savoir

Je sais.
Tu sais.
Il / Elle sait.
Nous savons.
Vous savez.
Elles savent.

Pop Quiz: Choose the Correct French Verb

1) I know my sister very well. – Je (connais / sais) très bien ma soeur.
2) She knows what I am reading. – Elle (connaît / sait) ce que je lis.
3) We know that the sun is bigger than the earth. – Nous (conaissons / savons) que le soleil est plus grand que la terre.
4) They know their country well. – Ils (connaissent / savent) bien leur patrie.
5) I know this is the right place. – Je (connais / sais) que c’est le bon endroit.
6) You know how to speak five languages. – Tu (connais / sais) parler cinq langues.
7) You know your school quite well. – Vous (connaissez / savez) très bien votre école.

So how do you think you did? Check below for answers!

1) connais

Normally, “connaître” is more appropriate for knowledge of (or familiarity with) people.

2) sait

What the speaker is reading is (normally) a verifiable fact; he or she can show the title to the other person.

3) savons

Again, this is a scientifically verifiable fact, and scientists and mathematicians have ways to calculate the size of both the earth and the sun.

4) connaissent

A country is a place; usually, in French, one will talk about familiarity with a place.

5) sais

Here, you are not stating your familiarity with a place, but the fact that this place is a specific verifiable place among others – that is, the “right” one. (The right one for what, we aren’t quite sure without more context, but that’s okay.)

6) sais

Though people may disagree about what level you must be in order to count that language among your spoken languages in different situations, speaking at least a few words of a language (or more) is generally considered a verifiable fact here.

7) connaissez

This case is similar to #4. It is, once again, a place. The subject of this sentence has probably spent a lot of time in their school, and is therefore probably pretty familiar with it.

I hope you managed to get most of them right! If not, try TakeLessons Live’s French classes to learn more about conjugating both irregular and regular French verbs, or practice with a private French tutor near you who can help you work through the different scenarios and examples.

 

Photo by Nazareth College

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