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All about Savoir

Everything you need to know about the irregular French verb savoir

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Savoir is one of the most common French verbs. It is irregular in conjugation and literally means "to know." Savoir has different meanings in certain tenses as well as some other tricky aspects to it.

To Know

In general, savoir means "to know" in many senses that this verb is used in English, including
  • to know a fact
    Anne sait la date
    Anne knows the date

  • to know by heart
    Sais-tu ce poème ?
    Do you know this poem by heart?

  • to know how (to do something)
    Je ne sais pas nager
    I don't know how to swim

  • to realize
    Il ne sait pas ce qu'il dit
    He doesn't know (realize) what he's saying.

Meaning Changes

In the passé composé, savoir means "to learn" or "to find out":

   J'ai su qu'il avait menti.
   I found out that he'd lied.

   Il n'a jamais su la vérité.
   He never found out the truth.


In the conditional, savoir is a very formal equivalent of "to be able to":

   Sauriez-vous me diriger vers...
   Could you possibly direct me toward...

   Je ne saurais pas vous aider.
   I'm afraid I can't help you.


Notes

Savoir is commonly confused with connaître, which also means "to know" but is used in different circumstances. Learn more in my lesson on savoir vs connaître.

Savoir is one of a handful of French verbs that can be made negative with just ne, rather than ne... pas.

   Je ne sais si je devrais le faire
   I don't know if I should do it.

   Je ne saurais le faire
   I wouldn't know how to do it.

Learn more about this phenomenon, known as the ne littéraire.


Conjugations

Present tense

   je sais
   tu sais
   il sait
   nous savons
   vous savez
   ils savent

All tenses


Most common French verbs
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