Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to say “I know” in Italian: Sapere vs. Conoscere

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020?

To be “in the know” about how the Italian language works, we must know how to use the verb sapere and be acquainted with the verb conoscere.  

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” with the verb sapere, we will be able to speak about what we know in Italian; and with the verb conoscere we will be able to to describe who are friends are. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when we ask for what we need in Italian, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 35th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

start with “I know” 
and use the verbs

sapere and conoscere

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these verbs?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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How to Say “I know ” in Italian  

Sapere 

To be “in the know” about how the Italian language works, we must know how to use the verb sapere and be acquainted with the verb conoscere.  

Let’s start with sapere.

Sapere is an irregular verb that ends in -ere.  It means to know,” as in to know a fact.

Since sapere is irregular, the root will be different from the infinitive verb for all forms except the voi form.  Interestingly, the root for the noi form differs by only a single letter from the regular root — with the addition of a second letter p. The irregular conjugations are given in the table below in brown and the regular conjugation in green. The syllable to be accented in each conjugation has been underlined.

Sapereto know (a fact)

io so I know
tu sai you (familiar) know
Lei

lei/lui

sa you (polite) know

she/he knows

     
noi sappiamo we know
voi sapete you all know
loro sanno they know

 

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How do we use the verb sapere

Just remember: “so, sai, sa”!

The present tense form for “I know…” from sapere is “Io so…” but of course, we leave out the subject pronoun, so the word that Italians use in conversation is just, “So…”

For the question, “Do you know…?” use the conjugated verb,  (tu) “Sai…?” for someone you are familiar with. Or: “Lei sa…?” for someone you have just met (including the subject pronoun Lei) to be polite.

“Does she or he know?” is, (lei, lui) “Sa…?” In order to emphasize the masculine or feminine nature of the subject, the subject pronouns lei or lui can also be used, for: “Lei sa?”  or “Lui sa?”  Most times, though, the subject is known to  the speakers from earlier in the conversation and therefore left out of the sentence.

Remember, there is no need to use the word “do” when asking a question in Italian.  Just these three simple, short Italian words, “so,” “sai,” or “sa” will suffice.  Use these short words to tell someone what you know or to ask someone what they know!

“Lei sa dov’è…” means, “Do you (polite) know where is the…?” (Or, in correct English: where the… is?”) This is an important Italian phrase to know when traveling in order to ask for directions. When approaching a stranger, it is customary to precede this question with the polite phrase “Mi scusi” for “Excuse me.”

Here are some examples of  travel phrases we can make with the verb sapere:       

Mi scusi, Excuse me,
…Lei sa dov’è… …(do) you (pol.) know where is…

…(do) you know where the… is?

…l’albergo? …the hotel?
…il ristorante? …the restaurant?
…la metro/metropolitana? …the subway?
…la fermata dell’autobus? …the bus stop?
…la stazione dei treni? …the train station?
…la banca? …the bank?
…l’ufficio postale? …the post office?
…il museo? …the museum?

Note: If the answer to these questions involves a particular street, the answer you will hear will use the phrase in… via, for the English on… street.

La banca è in via Verde.           The bank is on Green Street.     

 

******************************

 

Use a similar format to ask questions about schedules using sapere when traveling.

Mi scusi, Excuse me,
…Lei sa quando… …(do) you (pol.) know when…
…arriva il treno? …the train arrives (lit. arrives the train)?
…arriva l’autobus? …the bus arrives?
…parte il treno? …the train leaves (lit. leaves the train)?
…parte l’autobus? …the bus leaves?
…apre il museo? …the museum opens (lit. opens the museum)?
…chiude il museo? …the museum closes?

 

******************************

Finally, here are some commonly used, everyday phrases that you can make with the verb sapere. The word “Chissà” is a popular adverb and interjection used in Italian conversation. It is a word that can be used d in many different situations. Chissà can be used alone or in phrases that end with perché, se, or che (why, if, or what). Try to complete the questions that start with “Chissà…” in the table below on your own, using the simple present tense. 

Note the use of the subjunctive mode with the conjugation sappia and the imperfetto conjugation sapevo in our last two examples. Commit these phrases to memory, even if you haven’t fully mastered their verb forms, as they will come up often in conversation.  Knowing these two verbs will also impress your Italian friends!

So (qualcosa) a memoria. I know (something) by heart.
Chissà?
Chissà perché…?
Chissà se…?
Chissà che…?
Non si sa mai!
Who knows?
Who knows why…?
Who knows if…?
Who knows what…?
One never knows!
Come ben sai. As you well know.
Si sa che… Everyone knows that…
Non ne sa niente. He/she knows nothing about it.
Lo so. I know (it).
Non lo so. I don’t know (it).
Che io sappia.
Che lei/lui sappia?
As far as I know.
What does she/he know?
Lo sapevo! I knew it!

 

How to Say “I know ” in Italian  

Conoscere 

Conoscere is a regular -ere verb.  Conoscere also means to know,  with the connotation  to become acquainted with a person or a place.

The regular conjugation of conoscere is listed in the table below. Notice that the pronunciation of the ending of the io and loro forms will change once the regular endings are added on to the stem. There is a “hard c” sound with the endings of sco/–scono for the io and loro forms.  These verbs are listed in orange. The remaining forms retain the softer “sh” sound of the infinitive conoscere with their –sci and –sce combinations.

 The stressed syllable for each conjugation is underlined.

 

Conoscereto know (be acquainted with)

io conosco I know
tu conosci you (familiar) know
Lei

lei/lui

conosce you (polite) know

she/he knows

     
noi conosciamo we know
voi conoscete you all know
loro conoscono they know

 


 

How to Say “I know ” in Italian  

Sapere vs. Conoscere

As we have just described above, sapere and conoscere  are two Italian verbs that both mean, “to know.”  Think about how many times each day we say, “I know,” “you know,” or, “Do you know?”  In Italy, these expressions are also used frequently. But, there are differences in how each of these verbs that means “to know”  is used. If we learn which situations use the verb sapere and which use conoscere, we will be able to speak about what we know and who are friends are in Italian!

To follow are some specific examples of how each verb is used.

  1. Sapere is used to indicate knowledge of something, such as a fact. For instance, if we tell someone that we know a language very well we are stating a fact and use sapere. Notice how the definite article (the) (l’) is used after the verb sapere to describe the Italian language in this case.
(Io) So l’italiano molto bene.
I know (the) Italian language very well.
  1. Sapere is used to describe knowledge of something tangible that we can see or feel. The word that links the description of what we know to the subject of these types of sentences is the conjunction che.  Che cannot be omitted, as we often do in English.  Below are two examples that use sapere to describe something that we can see.
Ora so che il primo romanzo scritto in italiano si chiama, “I Promessi Sposi.”
Now (I) know that the first novel written in Italian is called, “The Betrothed.”
 
(Io) So che il cielo è blu.
I know that the sky is blue.

*By the way, if  you don’t know something, you must say,
“Non lo so.”“I don’t know (it).” 

 

  1. Sapere is used to describe the ability to do something. Notice in the translations below that the English phrase how to” is not necessary in Italian. Instead, and an infinitive verb follows directly after “so.”
(Io) So guidare la macchina.
I know (how to) drive a car.
  1. Sapere is also used when asking questions, as noted in the first section in this blog. If asking directions from a stranger, it is customary to begin with, “Mi scusi,” or just, “Scusi,” for the polite (command) form of “Excuse me.” Then follow with the polite, “Lei sa…”
Mi scusi. Lei sa quando arriva il treno?
Excuse me. (Do) (you pol.) know when arrives the train?
Do you know when the train arrives?
 
Mi scusi; Lei sa dov’è il binario tre?
Excuse me; (do) (you pol.) know where is (the) track three?
Do you know where track three is?                
  1. Conoscere means to know, as in to be acquainted with a person or a place.  
Io conosco Julia, la nonna di Paolo.
I know Julia, Paul’s grandmother. (lit. the grandmother of Paul)
 
Io conosco Milano molto bene.
I know Milan very well.

 

  1. Conoscere is also used in reference to meeting/getting to know someone for the first time.
Caterina vuole conoscere suo cugino Pietro in Italia.
Kathy wants to meet/get to know her cousin Peter in Italy.
Remember how to use sapere and conoscere to describe
what and who you know in Italian.

 I guarantee
you will use these verbs every day!
"Just the Verbs" from Conversational Italian for Travelers books
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

 

Available on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What I Know…

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the 6th in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!  just click HERE.

Another of our “commonly used phrases,” that will help us talk more easily is
 “What I know..”


leading into
“Do you / Does he/she know?”

 See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material was adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books  Just the Important Phrases and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

What I Know …

in Italian

If you remember from our last blog, “Italians Know – ‘Sapere’ and ‘Conoscere’, “there are two verbs that translate into English as “I know.”  When an Italian wants to describe a fact or the knowledge of how to do something, he/she uses the verb sapere, and this is the verb that will be the topic of our blog today.

********************

Sapere:  So, Sai, Sa

The present tense form for “I know…” from sapere is “Io so…” but of course, we leave out the subject pronoun, so the word that Italians use is conversation is just, “So…”

For the phrase, “Do you know…?” use the conjugated verb, ” (tu) Sai…?” for someone you are familiar with, or, “Lei sa…?” for someone you have just met, using the pronoun Lei in this case to be polite.

“Does she or he know?” is,(lei, lui) Sa…?In order to emphasize the masculine or feminine subject, the subject pronouns lei or lui can also be used to start the sentence in this case, but this is usually not necessary in a conversation if both speakers know who they are talking about.

Remember, there is no need to use the word “do” when asking a question in Italian.  Just these three simple, short Italian words, “so,” “sai” or “sa,” will suffice.  Use these short words to tell someone what you know or to ask what someone else knows!

“Lei sa dov’è…” which means, “Do you (polite) know where is the…?” (Or in correct English: where the… is?”) is an important phrase to know when traveling, as it is used to ask for directions.  In this case, it is customary to precede the question with the polite, “Mi scusi,” for “Excuse me.”

Here are some examples of  travel phrases that we can make with the verb sapere.           

Mi scusi, Excuse me,
…Lei sa dov’è… …(do) you (pol.) know where is…

…(do) you know where the… is?

…l’albergo? …the hotel?
…il ristorante? …the restaurant?
…la metro/metropolitana? …the subway?
…la fermata dell’autobus? …the bus stop?
…la stazione dei treni? …the train station?
…la banca? …the bank?
…l’ufficio postale? …the post office?
…il museo? …the museum?

If the answer to these questions involves a particular street, the answer you will hear will use the phrase in… via, for the English on… street.

La banca è in via Verde.           The bank is on Green Street.     

Use a similar format to ask questions about schedules using sapere when traveling.

Mi scusi, Excuse me,
…Lei sa quando… …(do) you (pol.) know when…
…arriva il treno? …the train arrives (lit. arrives the train)?
…arriva l’autobus? …the bus arrives?
…parte il treno? …the train leaves (lit. leaves the train)?
…parte l’autobus? …the bus leaves?
…apre il museo? …the museum opens (lit. opens the museum)?
…chiude il museo? …the museum closes?

Finally, here are some commonly used, everyday phrases using the verb sapere. 

Note the use of the subjunctive mode conjugation “sappia” and the imperfetto conjugation “sapevo” in our last two examples.  Commit these phrases to memory, even if you haven’t fully mastered all of the verb forms, as I am sure they will come up often in conversation.  Knowing these two verbs will also impress your Italian friends!

So (qualcosa) a memoria. I know (something) by heart.
Chi si sa?
Non si sa mai!
Who knows?
One never knows!
Come ben sai. As you well know.
Si sa che… Everyone knows that…
Non ne sa niente. He/she knows nothing about it.
Lo so. I know (it).
Non lo so. I don’t know (it).
Che io sappia.
Che lei/lui sappia?
As far as I know.
What does he/she know?
Lo sapevo! I knew it!

Remember these phrases, and I guarantee you will use them every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

 

Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italians Know – “Sapere” vs. “Conoscere”

Rome's via dei Fori Imperiali
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

To be “in the know” about how the Italian language works, we must know how to use the verb sapere and be acquainted with the verb consoscere.  As summer comes to a close and the new school season begins here in America, we had a request to spend a little time focusing on the verbs sapere and conscere  in our Conversational Italian! group on Facebook.

Once we tap into the Italian way of thinking and learn a few simple examples, it becomes easy to express what we know in Italian! Read below to see how this works.  The excerpt is adapted from our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books
Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar. To listen to these Italian verbs in action, go to the audio tab for Chapter 5 on our website LearnTravelItalian.com.

How many ways can you think of to use the verbs sapere and conoscere? Please reply. I’d love to hear! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

This material and more on this topic are available in the
Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books,
Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar
found on

Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

To Know in Italian – 

Sapere vs. Conoscere

 

Sapere is an irregular verb that ends in -ere.  It means to know.  Think about how many times each day we say, “I know,” or, “you know,” or, “Do you know?”  In Italy, these expressions are also used frequently.  Since sapere is irregular, the root will be different from the infinitive verb for all forms except the voi form.  Interestingly, the root for the noi form differs by only a single letter from the regular root – with the addition of a second letter p.  As usual, try to remember the most commonly used io, tu and noi forms.

Sapereto know (a fact)

io so I know
tu sai you (familiar) know
Lei

lei/lui

sa you (polite) know

she/he knows

     
noi sappiamo we know
voi sapete you all know
loro sanno they know

 

********************

Conoscere is a regular -ere verb.  This verb also means to know, but is used differently, more along the lines of to become acquainted with a person or a place.  The regular conjugation will be given here for completeness.  Notice that the pronunciation of the ending changes, with a “hard c” sound for the io and loro forms due to the endings of sco/–scono, and the “sh” sound for the forms that have the –sci and –sce combination.

 

Conoscereto know (be acquainted with)

io conosco I know
tu conosci you (familiar) know
Lei

lei/lui

conosce you (polite) know

she/he knows

     
noi conosciamo we know
voi conoscete you all know
loro conoscono they know

 

As an aside:  Later, in Chapter 7, we will learn how to conjugate the –ire verb capire, which means to understand (capisco, capisci, capisce, capiamo, capite, capiscono). Back in the 70’s, a common phrase among Italian-Americans in New York used between family members and friends was, “Capisci?” (“ka-peesh” in New Yorkese) meaning, “Do you get it?”  Don’t confuse the different forms of capire with the conjugations of conoscere!

 

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Technically, both sapere and conoscere can be translated as to know, although they are used in different situations.  To follow are some examples of how each verb is used.

 

  1. Sapere is used to indicate knowledge of something, such as a fact. For instance, if we tell someone that we know a language very well we are stating a fact and use sapere. Notice how the definite article (the) (l’) is used after the verb sapere to describe the Italian language in this case.
Io so l’italiano molto bene.
I know (the) Italian language very well.

 

  1. Sapere is used to describe knowlege of something tangible that we can see or feel. In our dialogue for Chapter 5 of Conversational Italian for Travelers, Caterina and Susanna describe what they do (and do not) know about the corn that they can see growing in northern Italy using the verb sapere. In order to say specifically, “I know that,” in Italian, Caterina includes che, which means that, in her sentence.  The word che cannot be omitted in these types of sentences, as we often do in English.  Here are two examples that use sapere to describe something that we can see.
“Ma ora so che anche voi avete il granturco in Italia.”
“But now (I) know that you all have (the) corn in Italy.”
 
Io so che il cielo è blu.
I know that the sky is blue.

By the way, if  you don’t know something, you must say,
“Non lo so.”“I don’t know it.” 

  1. Sapere is used to describe the ability to do something. Notice in the translations below that the English phrase how to” is not necessary in Italian. Instead, and an infinitive verb follows directly after “io so.”

 

Io so guidare la macchina.
I know (how to) drive a car.

 

  1. Sapere is also used when asking questions. If asking directions from a stranger, it is customary to begin with, “Mi scusi,” or just, “Scusi,” for the polite (command) form of “Excuse me.” Then follow with the polite, “Lei sa…”.

 

Mi scusi; Lei sa quando arriva il treno?
Excuse me; (do) (you pol.) know when arrives the train?
Do you know when the train arrives?
 
Mi scusi; Lei sa dov’è il binario tre?
Excuse me; (do) (you pol.) know where is (the) track three?
Do you know where track three is?                

 

  1. Conoscere means to know, as in to be acquainted with a person or a place. In our dialogue from Chapter 5 in Conversational Italian for Travelers, when Susanna asks Caterina if she knows any people other than her cousin in Italy, they both use the verb conoscere.

 

Susanna:        Tu conosci altre persone a Milano?
(Do) you know (any) other people in Milan?
Caterina:        Si, io conosco mio zio Salvatore e mia zia Rosa.
                        Yes, I know my Uncle Salvatore and my Aunt Rose.

 

Here are some additional examples of when to use conoscere:

 

Io conosco Julia, la nonna di Paolo.
I know Julia, Paul’s grandmother. (lit. the grandmother of Paul)
 
Io conosco Milano molto bene.
I know Milan very well.

 

  1. Conoscere is also used in reference to meeting/getting to know someone for the first time.

 

Caterina vuole conoscere suo cugino Pietro in Italia.
Kathy wants to meet/get to know her cousin Peter in Italy.

 

Learn Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers Textbook

Available on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.