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.
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.
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.
Most common French verbs