Using 'Saber' in Spanish

Most Common Meaning Is 'To Have Knowledge'

Child counting
Ya sé contar. (I already know how to count.). Photo by Ckmck; licensed via Creative Commons.

Saber is a common verb whose basic meaning is "to have knowledge" or "to have knowledge of." Although it is often translated as "to know," it should not be confused with conocer, which also is often translated as "to know."

The basic meaning of saber can be seen most clearly when it is followed by a noun or a phrase functioning as a noun:

  • ¿Sabe alguien los horarios de los buses desde el aeropuerto? Does anyone know the times of the buses from the airport?
  • Nuestra presidente no sabe inglés. Our president doesn't know English.
  • No se sabe mucho de su muerte. Not much is known about his death.
  • Sé bien la verdad. I know the truth well.
  • Nunca sabemos el futuro. We never know the future.

When followed by an infinitive, saber often means "to know how":

  • El que no sabe escuchar no sabe entender. The one who doesn't know how to listen doesn't know how to understand.
  • No saben escribir en cursiva. They don't know how to write in cursive.
  • El problema era que los dos no sabíamos nadar. The problem was that the two of us didn't know how to swim.

Saber can mean "to find out." This is especially true when it is used in the preterite tense:

  • Supe que todos tenemos cosas en común. I found out that all of us have things in common.
  • Nunca supieron que estaban equivocados. They never found out that they were mistaken.

In context, saber can be used to say "to have news" about someone or something: No sé nada de mi madre. I don't have any news about my mother.

The phrase saber a can be used to indicate what something tastes like: Yo no he comido iguana, pero se dice que sabe a pollo. I haven't eaten iguana, but they say it tastes like chicken.

Remember that saber is conjugated irregularly.

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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Saber' in Spanish." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Using 'Saber' in Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Saber' in Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).