How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Savoir' ('to Know')

The French verb 'savoir' is highly irregular, so you'll have to memorize it

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Savoir ("to see") is one of the 10 most common verbs of the thousands used in the French language. 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.

Savoir, like the other most common French verbs, has an irregular conjugation, so irregular that you just have to memorize the full conjugation because it doesn't fall into a predictable pattern.

This is why the conjugation tables below are so useful. Study them and set them to memory because, if you plan on speaking French, you will definitely be using the verb savoir. And to use it, you must conjugate it, which means you must know how to conjugate it correctly.

'Savoir' as an Irregular French '-ir' Verb

Of course, savoir does fit one pattern—it is a French -ir verb that's very irregular, like other quirky, very common French -ir verbs, such as asseoir, ouvrir, devoir, falloir, mourir, pleuvoir, pouvoir, recevoir, tenir, valoir, venir, voir and vouloir.

These are all very irregular French -ir verbs with conjugations you must memorize in order to use them correctly.

There are, however, two sets of irregular French -ir verbs that are conjugated similarly.

  1. The first group includes: dormirmentirpartirsentirservir and sortir and all of their derivatives (such as repartir). These verbs all drop the last letter of the radical in the singular conjugations, as you can see in the table below.
  1. The second group includes: couvrir,cueillir, découvrir, offrir, ouvrir, souffrir and their derivatives (such as recouvrir). These verbs are all conjugated like regular French -er verbs, as you can see in the table below. Note that we said "like -er verbs," not like the -ir verbs that they are.

Meanings and Uses of 'Savoir'

Generally, savoir means "to know," very much like this verb is used in English, including:

  • to know a fact
  • to know by heart
  • to know how (to do something)
  • to realize

In the passé composésavoir means "to learn" or "to find out."

In the conditionalsavoir is a very formal equivalent of "to be able to."

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

The Difference Between 'Savoir' and 'Connaître'

These verbs both 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 with both verbs. The more you use French, the more you'll get a feel for this difference and won't make the mistake of confusing them. Here is a side-by-side look at their everyday meanings.

Savior means:

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.

Connaître means:

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.

    Expressions With 'Savoir'

    • à savoir > that is, namely, i.e.
    • savoir bien > to know very well, be very aware of / that
    • Savoir, c'est pouvoir. > Knowledge is power.
    • savoir écouter > to be a good listener
    • ne savoir à quel saint se vouer > to not know which way to turn
    • ne savoir où donner de la tête. > to not know whether one is coming or going
    • 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.

    Simple Conjugations of the Irregular French Verb 'Savoir'

     Present Future Imperfect Present participle
    ilsaitsaurasavaitPassé composé
    noussavonssauronssavions   Auxiliary verb avoir
    voussavezsaurezsaviez   Past participlesu
     Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
    (nous) sachons