Savoir ou connaître ? How to say “to know” in French.

Savoir ou connaître ? The French language has two different verbs that mean “to know”. Here’s a flowchart I created to help you decide when you should use each one.

The first part (the flowchart) is very straightforward and fairly easy to remember. I recommend that you practice each usage thoroughly before moving on to the next.

Sections 1 to 4 are the easiest. Once you have mastered them, you can slowly progress to sections 5 and 6, as well as the exceptions.

drawit-diagram-1

Further practice activities

1. The following numbers correspond to sections 1 to 4 in the flowchart above. Click on each song title to hear French songs that illustrate the use of « savoir » and « connaître », as explained in the similarly numbered flowchart sections. These are external links, so there is no guarantee how long they will be live.

         -1-  Jean Gabin: « Maintenant, je sais »

         -2-  Charles Aznavour : « Il faut savoir »;  Emily Loizeau : « Je ne sais pas choisir »

         -3- Georges Moustaki: « Je ne sais pas où tu commences » (This song is also good to practice French possessive adjectives!); Joyce Jonathan: « Je ne sais pas [comment te dire] » (I chose the link with the fewest spelling mistakes in the lyrics.)

         -4- Joël André : « Si tu ne connais pas Cassis »

2. Alone or in a group, toss a die to see which section to practice. For example, if the die lands on “2”, the player has to make a sentence using « savoir » followed by an infinitive. Playing in a group has the advantage that others can correct you. You can also assign points for each correct sentence, and the winner can be the one with the most points at the end of a round.

3. Choose a short text where the verbs « savoir » or « connaître » appear. Examine what follows each one and explain why « savoir » or « connaître » was used.

A few idioms using « savoir » and « connaître »

« Connaître quelque chose ou quelqu’un par cœur » (“To know something or someone by heart / inside out”)

« Connaître quelque chose comme sa poche » (“To know something like the back of your hand”)

« C’est qui tu connais, et non pas ce que tu sais qui compte. » (“It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.”)

« Savoir-faire » (“Know-how”)

« Va savoir » (“Go figure.”)

« Pas que je sache » (“Not to my knowledge”)

« Ne pas savoir où donner de la tête » (“Not know whether you’re coming or going”)

Et voilà ! C’est tout pour aujourd’hui. (That’s it for today.) I hope you enjoyed my post. If you would like to practise discussing these expressions, you may wish to sign up for our one-on-one conversation classes here.

Cheers, and ’til next time:)

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Except where otherwise noted, all content on this site by Yuri de la Pena is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

 

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, all content on this site by Yuri de la Pena is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.