To know in Portuguese Saber vs Conhecer

To know in Portuguese | Saber vs Conhecer

Today I am going to talk about two verbs that cause a lot of confusion.

The verbs are – SABER and CONHECER.

They both mean “to know” in English, but in Portuguese they cannot be used interchangeably.

I see many of my students making that mistake, so I think it is quite important to learn this right, in order to sound more like a native speaker and to impress your friends and yourself 😉

You can also check out my YouTube video about this topic:

The verb SABER in Portuguese


So, first let’s speak about SABER.
Let’s tackle its conjugation!

SABER is a very irregular verb, but you should get to know it, because we use it often.

So, the conjugation in the Present Tense goes as follows:

Eu sei
Tu sabes
Ele/ Ela/ Você sabe
Nós sabemos
Vocês sabem
Eles/ Elas sabem

As you can see, it is very irregular.
If you want to know the conjugation of this verb in other tenses, go to conjuga-me.net and insert the verb SABER into the search tab.

Ok, so now to the use of this verb.

Generally, we use it to speak about facts that we know and things that we are able to do (that we can do).

Let’s see these two cases in more detail.

Using SABER to speak about facts that we know or don’t know

When you want to say that you know a fact or that you don’t know a fact, you must use the verb SABER and not the verb CONHECER.

Take a look at the examples below:

  • Eu sei que tu me mentiste (I know that you lied to me);
  • Sabes quando começa o futebol? Não, não sei. (Do you know when football starts? No, I don’t know).
A football laying on grass

Hopefully, the two examples above help you understand that we use this verb to speak about facts, or things that we know or don’t know, in every day life.

The use of SABER to speak about things we are able to do

So, when we want to say that we can do something, like, for example, when we want to say that we can speak Portuguese, we normally use the verb SER followed by the infinitive of the main verb.

Check it out:

  • Eu sei cantar muito bem (I can sing very well);
  • Tu sabes falar Português. (You can speak Portuguese).

The more literal translation, which might help you is – to know how to do something.

So, the examples above could also be translated as – “I know how to sing” and “You know how to speak Portuguese”.

Are you starting to get it? 🙂

So, let me stir things up a little bit. On to the verb CONHECER.

The verb CONHECER in Portuguese


The conjugation of this verb is also somewhat irregular in the first person, but all other persons are regular.

It goes as follows:

Eu conheço
Tu conheces
Ele/ Ela conhece
Nós conhecemos
Vocês conhecem
Eles/ Elas conhecem

As you can see, the first person conjugation has to be slightly changed, because when a “c” comes before an “o”, the pronunciation changes from an “s” sound to a “k” sound. Since we don’t want this to happen, we have to use a “ç” instead. To find more about pronunciation, check my pronunciation guide, or take my speech course, where I teach you in detail how to speak like a native speaker.

But now, when do we use CONHECER?

This verb is used to speak about acquaintances, people or things we know – it can also be a song, a country, a town, anything you can imagine 🙂

Here are a few examples:

  • Conheces Moçambique? Não, mas o meu pai conhece! (Do you know Mozambique? No, but my father does).
  • Conheces o meu irmão? Sim, conheço! (Do you know my brother? Yes, I do!)
A sand beach with rocks in the front, turquoise sea water and a little boat

In the cases above, we are using CONHECER to speak about a place that someone knows and a person that someone knows.

This means that we speak about people that we already met and already know and places that we have been to and already know as well.

Does this make sense?

Instances when we use CONHECER and SABER interchangeably

Ok, it all might seem clearer now. That’s good! However, there is an example that might still be confusing.

Take a look at these:

  • Sabes de alguém que queira trabalhar no café?
  • Conheces alguém que queira trabalhar no café?

They are exactly the same and they mean the same. BUT, if you check it out carefully, the verb SABER comes with a preposition “de”. So, when you have SABER DE, this means the same as CONHECER.

Tricky, huh?


To sum up, SABER and CONHECER are not the same verb and they do not mean the same in Portuguese, although they have the same translation in English.

In Portuguese, these two verbs have distinct uses and you should be aware of those uses, in order to use them correctly and to sound more like a true Portuguese.

Now, tell me:

  • Were you aware of this?
  • Do you have difficulties using these verbs correctly?
  • Did this post help you understand the differences between the two verbs?

Let me know all in the comments below! I am excited to know if you have enjoyed this post.

Last but not least, your task for today:
Write two short sentences with saber and conhecer in the comment section below. I will check your answer and reply 🙂

Keep posted, as I will be continuing to speak about verbs that are easily confused, like the verbs CONHECER and ENCONTRAR, which both can translate into “to meet”, in English.

Would you be interested in finding out about them too?

If you want to learn more about European Portuguese make sure to check out my online courses here.

Beijinhos,

Mia.

Categories: GrammarTags: ,

10 thoughts on “To know in Portuguese | Saber vs Conhecer

  1. This is interesting. I speak a bit of Spanish but only a few words of Portuguese. I do get this idea of the words being used for different things even though they mean the same. It’s funny because I know words like this are the easiest to get wrong when speaking a foreign language. I’s something that comes only with practice.

    1. Hi Candy,

      thank you for your comment. Yes, practice will help and also having a list with examples, so you will be aware if you come across them in future 🙂

      Beijinhos,

      Mia

  2. Portuguese is a beautiful language, very lyrical. And Mia is an excellent teacher. This would indeed be a wonderful language to learn online. She has made a lot of good points, as the verbs saber and conhecer are very different and not used in the same way as the English verb to know that is used in almost every situation whether we are talking about a fact or an acquaintance.

    1. Hi Joss,

      thank you so much for your feedback. I am happy that you liked this blog post. If you are interested to learn more about European Portuguese you can check out my free online course.

  3. Hi there!

    Thanks for this amazing post! It was really interesting and I have to say I saw your YouTube video and I really enjoyed your explanation! Learning a new language can be really hard! Especially if two words can translate to a single verb and yet have different meanings! You explained very deeply and it was easy to understand! Thanks

    1. Hi Juan,

      thank you very much for your comment. I am glad you liked the blog post and the YouTube video 🙂 If you want to learn more about European Portuguese make sure to check out my online courses as well.

      Beijinhos,

      Mia

  4. Thank you for sharing a lovely, informative article with us. The chief item of this article is SABER and CONHECER. It is truly amazing that you covered this subject so well in your post. I’ve learned a lot from reading your post and gained a lot of knowledge about it. I like The verb SABER in Portuguese of the points in your article. I must take this course to learn Portuguese. Although the pronunciation of the Portuguese language is different, we can easily understand by doing this special course.
    Finally, I have read and enjoyed your article so I want to share the article in my Facebook group so that now everyone knows about Portuguese.

    1. Hi Asraful,

      thank you for your comment. I am happy that you enjoyed the article. If you think the pronunciation of Portuguese is difficult, you can check out my Speech Course that focuses only on pronunciation 🙂

      Beijinhos,

      Mia

  5. This is very good and it is something that I fee like I can easily know too because it will really help my sister who is currently looking to learn Portuguese. I am learning french while she is learning this language. We decided to learn different languages during this whole Corona virus thing. I will share this post with her.

    1. Hi Kay, 

      thank you for your comment. I am happy that you enjoyed reading my article about the verbs saber and conhecer in Portuguese. Feel free to share also this free online course with your sister, which could help her learn Portuguese fast 🙂

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