French Grammar Guide for non-francophones


An Overview of savoir and connaître

French has two words for the English verb "know": savoir and connaître. To choose the appropriate one, pay attention to the word that follows. Savoir means "to know a fact", while connaître means to know a person or to be familiar with a person, place or thing.

For the most part, savoir is followed by que, si or quand ("to know that, when, if  ...") or comes at the end of a sentence, e.g.:

  • Je sais qu'elle nous aidera.
  • Je ne sais pas si ma soeur viendra.
  • Quand est-ce qu'on va le savoir?
  • Je le sais.

On the other hand, connaître is usually followed by a noun, e.g.:

  • Je connais Marie
  • Elle connaît la solution
  • Quand est-ce qu'on va connaître les résultats?

Note that connaître can be used to mean "meet", e.g.: Je l'ai connu en France means "I met him in France"; note also that the verb savoir, can be used to indicate an ability, e.g.: Je sais conduire ("I know how to drive"). It can also be used to mean "find out about an event", e.g.:

  • Je l'ai su hier ("I found out about it yesterday")

Finally, since the most recent spelling reform (1990), it is acceptable to write connaître with or without a circumflex accent (i.e.: connaitre).

A tip

One tip is that if you can replace the verb with "be certain", you should probably use savoir, e.g.:

  • I am certain she will come = je sais qu'elle viendra

If replacing the verb with "be certain" makes the sentence sound weird, then connaître is likely correct, e.g.:

  • I am certain your sister very well (sounds weird so ...)
  • Je connais très bien ta soeur.

Practice: write a story about someone you know who is able to do many things, then check the story with

French Grammar Guide for non-francophones » VERBS (e.g.: parler, venir, être, avoir, vendre)
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