SAPERE VS. CONOSCERE. What is the difference?

SAPERE and CONOSCERE are two Italian verbs that often lead to confusion, in fact, both can be translated into the verb ‘to know‘ in English.

Although, in Italian sapere and conoscere are used with different meanings and they are not interchangeable !

CONOSCERE is used with people, places or things.  Conoscere means to be familiar or acquainted with a person, a place, a thing, a situation or an event. In short, it is not wrong to say that can be followed just by nouns. You will never see the verb  conoscere followed by another verb (which is likely to happen with sapere).


Conosco la geografia italiana molto bene. (I know Italian geography very well)

Conosci il nuovo ragazzo francese al corso di italiano? (Do you know the new French guy at the Italian course)

Conosciamo molto bene la città di Lucca, è incantevole! (We know very well Lucca…)


SAPERE  means to be aware of something.

In questions, it is often used to find out information.


Non lo so (I don’t know)

Scusi, sa dove si trova la stazione? (Excuse-me, do you know where is the station?)

Sappiamo che è stato trovato un gatto nel vostro giardino (We know that a cat was found in your garden)


To put it in another way, SAPERE is used when we find out something by our mental faculties, while CONOSCERE is used when we find out something or someone by our physical faculties.


SAPERE is also used as modal verb when it is accompanied by an infinitive verb, in this case it is used to stay that we know HOW to do something, that we have an ability or a skill.

So parlare molto bene italiano,ma non so cucinare per niente!

Sai suonare la chitarra?

Bear in mind, in English or German the previous examples would be translated with the verb to can  (or koennen) + infinitive.

I can speak Italian very well, but I cannot cook.

Can you play guitar?

Check the video scribe below to better understand the rule and learn a few extra examples and find below the present tense of both verbs. Alla prossima!