German Verbs - Kennen - to Know

Conjugations for All Tenses and Sample Sentences

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Kennen is an irregular German verb that means "to know." German has two different verbs that can correspond to the single English verb "to know," as does Spanish, Italian and French. German makes a distinction between knowing or being familiar with a person or thing (kennen) and knowing a fact (wissen).

In German, kennen means "to know, be familiar with" and wissen means "to know a fact, know when/how." German-speakers always know (wissen) when to use which one. If they are talking about knowing a person or being familar with something, they will use kennen. If they are talking about knowing a fact or knowing when something will happen, they'll use wissen.

There are also possible 'thing' objects of kennen:
Ich kenne... das Buch, den Film, das Lied, die Gruppe, den Schauspieler, die Stadt, usw.
I know (am familiar with)... the book, the movie, the song, the group, the actor, the city, etc.

The verb kennen is a so-called "mixed" verb. That is to say, the infinitive's stem vowel e changes to a in the past tense (kannte) and the past participle (gekannt). It is called "mixed" because this form of conjugation reflects some traits of a regular verb (e.g., normal present tense endings and a ge- past participle with a -t ending) and some traits of a strong or irregular verb (e.g., a stem-vowel change in the past and past participle).

How to Conjugate the German Verb Kennen (to Know)

In the following chart you will find the conjugation of the irregular German verb kennen (to know). This verb chart uses the new German spelling (die neue Rechtschreibung).

(Present Perfect)
ich kenne (ihn)
I know (him)
ich kannte
I knew
ich habe gekannt
I knew, have known
du kennst
you know
du kanntest
you knew
du hast gekannt
you knew, have known
er/sie kennt
he/she knows
er/sie kannte
he/she knew
er/sie hat gekannt
he/she knew, has known
wir/Sie*/sie kennen
we/you/they know
wir/Sie*/sie kannten
we/you/they knew
wir/Sie*/sie haben gekannt
we/you/they knew, have known
ihr kennt
you (pl.) know
ihr kanntet
you (pl.) knew
ihr habt gekannt
you (pl.) knew, have known

* Although "Sie" (formal "you") is always conjugated as a plural verb, it can refer to one or more persons.

(Past Perfect)
ich hatte gekannt
I had known
ich werde kennen
I will know
du hattest gekannt
you had know
du wirst kennen
you knew
er/sie hatte gekannt
he/she had known
er/sie wird kennen
he/she will know
wir/Sie*/sie hatten gekannt
we/you/they had known
wir/Sie*/sie werden kennen
we/you/they will know
ihr hattet gekannt
you (pl.) had known
ihr werdet kennen
you (pl.) will know
ich/er würde kennen
I/he would know
ich/er kennte
I/he would know
wir/sie würden kennen
we/they would know
wir/sie kennten
we/they would know

Sample Sentences and Idioms with Kennen

Er kennt mich nicht.
He doesn't know me.

Ich habe sie gar nicht gekannt.
I didn't know her at all.

Ich kenne ihn nur vom Ansehen.
I only know him by sight.

Sie kennt mich nur dem Namen nach.
She only knows me by name.

Ich kenne Anna schon seit Jahren.
I've known Anna for years.

Kennst du ihn/sie?
Do you know him/her?

Den Film kenne ich nicht.
I don't know that film.

Das kenne ich schon.
I've heard that (all/one) before.

Das kennen wir hier nicht.
We don't put up with that here.

Sie kennen keine Armut.
They don't have/know any poverty.

Wir kannten kein Mass.
We went too far. / We overdid it.

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Your Citation
Flippo, Hyde. "German Verbs - Kennen - to Know." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Flippo, Hyde. (2023, April 5). German Verbs - Kennen - to Know. Retrieved from Flippo, Hyde. "German Verbs - Kennen - to Know." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).