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 know") is one of the 10 most common verbs in French.  Savoir, like many of the 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.

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

Savoir does fit one pattern—it is an irregular French -ir verbs. It is conjugated like other quirky, common French -ir verbs, such as asseoir, ouvrir, devoir, falloir, mourir, pleuvoir, pouvoir, recevoir, tenir, valoir, venir, voir and vouloir.

There are actually 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.
  2. 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.

Meanings and Uses of "Savoir"

Generally, savoir means "to know," much as the verb is used in English. It can mean to know:

  • A fact
  • By heart
  • How (to do something)
  • 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 into negative with just ne, rather than the full ne... pas negative.

"Savoir" vs. "Connaître"

Savoir and connaître both mean "to know." But they mean "to know" in very different ways: savoir relates more to things and connaître relates more to people, although there is an overlap with both verbs. Here is a further comparison of their meanings.

Savior means:

1. To know how to do something. Savoir is followed by an infinitive:

  •  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"

Some expressions using savoir include:

  • 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 "Savoir"

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.

Present Future Imperfect Present participle
je sais saurai savais sachant
tu sais sauras savais
il sait saura savait Passé composé
nous savons saurons savions Auxiliary verb avoir
vous savez saurez saviez Past participle su
ils savent sauront savaient
Subjunctive Conditional Passé simple Imperfect subjunctive
je sache saurais sus susse
tu saches saurais sus susses
il sache saurait sut sût
nous sachions saurions sûmes sussions
vous sachiez sauriez sûtes sussiez
ils sachent sauraient surent sussent
(tu) sache
(nous) sachons
(vous) sachez
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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Savoir' ('to Know')." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Savoir' ('to Know'). Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Savoir' ('to Know')." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).