Conjugate the Irregular French Verb Connaître, to Know

Connaître's conjugation is so irregular, you just have to memorize it

Young woman browsing the shelves at a library.

Connaître, meaning "to know" or "to be familiar with," is a very frequently-used French verb. Below are the simple conjugations of the verb; they do not include the compound tenses, which consist of a form of the auxiliary verb with the past participle.

'Connaître' as an Irregular French '-er' Verb

Connaître is an -re verb that is highly irregular. There are regular -er verbs and there are irregular -er verbs, and the irregular group can be organized into essentially five patterns around the verbs prendre, battre, mettre, rompre, and those that end with the root word -craindre. 

But connaître does not fit into any of these patterns. It belongs to the remaining irregular -re verbs, which have such unusual or unwieldy conjugations that you have to memorize each one separately. These are very common and important verbs, so you really do have to learn them in order to communicate effectively in French. Try working on one verb a day until you've mastered them all. They include: absoudre, boire, clore, conclure, conduire, confire, connaître, coudre, croire, dire, écrire, faire, inscrire, lire, moudre, naître, plaire, rire, suivre, and vivre.

'Connaître' as a Model

Connaître is so common and useful that its conjugation is the model for other French verbs ending in -aître. Nearly all of these verbs are conjugated like connaître. The big exception is naître.

The Difference Between 'Connaître' and 'Savoir' 

Both of the verbs ​savoir and ​connaître mean "to know." But they mean "to know" in very different ways. As a very rough rule of thumb, savoir relates more to things and connaître relates more to people, although there is overlap on both sides. The more you use French, the more you'll get a feel for the difference and won't make the mistake of confusing these two verbs. 

'Connaître' Meaning

1. To know a person

Je connais Pierrette.

  • I know Pierrette.

2. To be familiar with a person or thing

Je connais bien Toulouse.

  • ​​I know / am familiar with Toulouse.

Je connais cette nouvelle. Je l'ai lue l'année dernière.

  • I know / am familiar with this short story. I read it last year.

'Savior' Meaning

1. To know how to do something. 

Savoir is followed by an infinitive (the word "how" is not translated into French).

Savez-vous conduire ?

  • Do you know how to drive?

Je ne sais pas nager.

  • I don't know how to swim.

2.  To know, plus a subordinate clause

Je sais qu'il l'a fait.

  • I know he did it.

Je sais où il est.

  • I know where he is

Use Either 'Connaître' or 'Savoir'

For the following meanings, either verb can be used.

1. To know (have) a piece of information

Je sais / connais son nom.

  • I know his name.

Nous savons / connaissons déjà sa réponse.

  • We already know his response.

2. To know by heart (have memorized)

Elle sait / connaît cette chanson par cœur.

  • She knows this song by heart.

Sais-tu / Connais-tu ton discours par cœur ?

  • Do you know your speech by heart?

Simple Conjugations of the Irregular French Verb 'Connaître'

Present Future Imperfect Present participle
je connais connaîtrai connaissais connaissant
tu connais connaîtras connaissais
il connaît connaîtra connaissait Passé composé
nous connaissons connaîtrons connaissions Auxiliary verb avoir
vous connaissez connaîtrez connaissiez Past participle connu
ils connaissent connaîtront connaissaient
Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
je connaisse connaîtrais connus connusse
tu connaisses connaîtrais connus connusses
il connaisse connaîtrait connut connût
nous connaissions connaîtrions connûmes connussions
vous connaissiez connaîtriez connûtes connussiez
ils connaissent connaîtraient connurent connussent
(tu) connais
(nous) connaissons
(vous) connaissez
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Team, ThoughtCo. "Conjugate the Irregular French Verb Connaître, to Know." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). Conjugate the Irregular French Verb Connaître, to Know. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Conjugate the Irregular French Verb Connaître, to Know." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).