Sapere vs Conoscere

Sapere vs conoscere
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Knowing Italian Verbs

Do you know how to say "know" in Italian? There are two verbs with distinct meanings, used in completely different situations. And just to keep things interesting, they sometimes have different meanings in different tenses. Confused? After you read this lesson, you’ll know all you need to know.


Sapere is an irregular verb and means "to know a fact" or "to know how to do something." It’s often followed by an infinitive or a subordinate clause.

Per esempio…

Non so la risposta.   I don’t know the answer.
Sai che se ne sta andando?   Do you know that he’s leaving?
Sappiamo cucinare.   We know how to cook.

Sapere di means "to smell like" or "to taste like."

Per esempio…

La cucina sa di caffè.   The kitchen smells like coffee.
Questo vino sa di fragole.   This wine tastes like strawberries.

In the passato prossimo, sapere has a number of possible meanings:

  • to be able to
  • to find out
  • to hear that
  • to learn that
  • to manage to

Per esempio…

Ho saputo che ha trovato un nuovo lavoro.    I heard she got a new job.
Come l’hanno saputo?   How did they find out?


Conoscere is a regular –ere verb and means "to know someone" or "to be familiar with a place." It can only be followed by a direct object, never by an infinitive or a subordinate clause.

Per esempio…

Non conoscono mia sorella.   They don’t know my sister.
Conosco un buon ristorante nelle vicinanze.   I know a good restaurant nearby.
Conosci la Puglia?   Are you familiar with Puglia?
Have you ever been to Puglia?

In the passato prossimo, conoscere often means "to meet someone."

Per esempio…

Nico ha conosciuto la sua ragazza a Tropea.   Nico met his girlfriend in Tropea.
Ho conosciuto Paola l’anno scorso.   I met Paola last year.

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Conoscere vs sapere

Laura K Lawless
Virtual Italian Teacher at Lawless Languages | Website

Ciao! I’m Laura K Lawless, creator, writer, editor, and CLO (Chief Lawless Officer) of this free online Italian learning site.

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