Today I hope to make it easier for you to use the verbs Saber and Conhecer correctly. Both Saber and Conhecer mean To Know in English. But they are not interchangeable in Portuguese and this is a great source of confusion among speakers of Portuguese as a foreign language. You will learn in this lesson:
- In which situations to use Saber and Conhecer
- A tricky case of using Saber
- When Saber de and Conhecer mean the same thing
Here is the video lesson:
Use Saber to Talk About Facts
Saber is an irregular verb. It’s easy to find its conjugation online or in Portuguese textbooks.
Use Saber to talk about information or facts that you know (or don’t know).
André: Você sabe o preço de uma passagem para São Paulo?
Laura: Não, não sei.
André: Do you know the price of a ticket to São Paulo?
Laura: No, I don’t know.
André and Laura are talking about a piece of information: the price of a plane ticket. So they are using Saber.
João: A que horas é a reunião? Você sabe?
Cida: Sei, sim. É às 10.
João: At what time is the meeting? Do you know?
Cida: Yes, I do. It’s at 10.
Cida: Você sabe quem vai participar da reunião?
João: Não sei nada sobre essa reunião.
Cida: Do you know who is going to be in the meeting?
João: I don’t know anything about this meeting.
In examples 2 and 3, João and Cida are talking about facts or pieces of information: the time of a meeting and who is going to be there. So they use the verb Saber.
Use Saber to Talk about Things that you Can Do
We also use the verb Saber to talk about something that we know how to do, or something that we can do. The verb that follows Saber is always in the infinitive form.
Here are examples:
- Eu sei falar português muito bem. = I can speak Portuguese very well.
- João sabe fazer uma caipirinha maravilhosa. = João knows how to make a wonderful caipirinha.
- Marta não sabe nadar. Você sabe? = Marta cannot swim. Can you?
Use Conhecer to Express Acquaintance
We use Conhecer to express acquaintance with people, places, or things.
João: Você conhece Marisa Monte?
Cida: Conheço e adoro!
João: Do you know Marisa Monte? (Do you know who she is?)
Cida: I know her and I love her!
Notice that Conhecer doesn’t necessarily mean that you have met that person or that you’re talking about someone in your circle of friends. It can simply indicate that you know who the person is.
João: Essa é minha esposa, Fabiana.
Cida: A gente já se conhece!
João: This is my wife, Fabiana.
Cida: We already know each other!
João: Você conhece Recife?
Cida: Ainda não conheço. Preciso conhecer!
João: Do you know Recife? (Meaning: Have you been to Recife?)
Cida: Not yet. I need to go there.
Conhecer a place means that you have been to that place.
Wait! But I’ve Heard Something Different!
A friend of mine once asked me: “I was talking to a Brazilian friend and she used saber to ask if I knew someone. Is that right?”
Well, the Brazilian grammar was correct; the way my friend translated the question to English wasn’t.
Observe the examples below:
- Você conhece a Cris? = Do you know Cris? (Is she your friend? Have you met her?)
- Sabe a Cris? Ela vai se casar. = You know Cris? She is getting married.
Both sentences translate to the same In English, but in Portuguese using the different verbs gives the questions different meanings.
The first question is the regular use of Conhecer to indicate acquaintance or if you know a person.
The second question, with Saber, is just referring to Cris in order to mention her in the conversation. The person could have said: “Remember Cris?” In other words, this person is not asking if you know Cris. It is just a way to mention Cris and then say something about her.
Conhecer or Saber de = To Know Of
To express that you know of something you have two options:
- Saber de
When we are asking for recommendations we often use this structure.
- Quem conhece (sabe de) um bom restaurante perto do meu hotel? = Who knows of a good restaurant by my hotel?
- Você conhece (sabe de) um bom agente de viagens? = Do you know of a good travel agent?
- Você vai para Pipa? Eu conheço (sei de) uma pousada maravilhosa. = Are you going to Pipa? I know of a great pousada.
It’s easy to see that it requires practice to use Saber and Conhecer correctly. It’s not really difficult, but it does require that you become familiar with many different situations, so that you can quickly choose the right verb at the right time during a conversation. The more you practice, the more second-nature it becomes and the less you need to think about it.
You can practice with a Street Smart Brazil Instructor. We offer one-on-one Brazilian Portuguese lessons for all levels. Try us. Our teachers are well trained to help you speak Portuguese comfortably.