connaître/savoir

What’s the difference between connaître and savoir?

It’s easy to mix up the French verbs savoir and connaître, because they both mean know. However, they are not interchangeable. Read on to learn when to use savoir and when to use connaître, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Une nouvelle élève vient d’arriver dans notre classe. Je ne sais pas encore comment elle s’appelle. Le professeur lui demande de se présenter.

« Bonjour, je m’appelle Feng et je viens d’Anshan, en Chine. Vous connaissez la Chine ? »

connaître

The verb connaître refers to a familiarity with something. We use connaître when we have had personal contact with something or someone. For example, to talk about a place you’ve already visited, a person you’ve already met, a topic you already know about, etc. Connaître is always followed by a noun, a person or a place. It cannot be followed by a verb or a preposition.

Examples:
Je connais un restaurant indien très bon, il n’est pas très loin.I know a great Indian restaurant, it’s not very far.
Est-ce que tu connais Georges ? Il est très sympa.Do you know Georges? He’s very nice.
Personne ne connaît le secret de Jean-Baptiste.No one knows Jean-Baptiste’s secret.

Connaître can also mean se trouver dans une certaine situationto be in a certain situation, to experience something.

Example:
Le nouveau roman d’Amélie Nothomb connaît un franc succès.Amélie Nothomb’s new book has been an enormous success.

savoir

The verb savoir refers to things that have been learned. We use savoir to talk about facts, information, learned abilities, know-how, etc. Savoir can be followed by an infinitive or a subordinate clause introduced by que, qui, où, quand, comment, pourquoi, si, etc. It cannot be followed by a noun.

Examples:
Carmen sait coudre, je vais lui demander de réparer ma robe.Carmen knows how to sew, I’m going to ask her to repair my dress.
Est-ce que vous savez si le bus est déjà passé ?Do you know if the bus has already been?
Marina sait j’habite.Marina knows where I live.
Les gens savent qu’il faut manger sainement pour être en bonne santé.People know that you have to eat healthily to be healthy.

Info

Occasionally, savoir and connaître are interchangeable. However: the grammatical structures remain different.

Example:
Monsieur Bricole connaît le fonctionnement de cette machine.Monsieur Bricole knows how this machine works.

Connaître is always followed by a noun, a person or a place.

Monsieur Bricole sait comment cette machine fonctionne.Monsieur Bricole knows how this machine works.

Savoir can be followed by an infinitive or by a subordinate clause.

To learn the conjugations of savoir and connaître, go to our French Verbs Conjugator. Learn more about the verb savoir with our page on the difference between savoir and pouvoir.