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Verbs with different meanings in the preterite: Saber and Conocer

The verbs saber and conocer are special verbs in the sense that they both change their meaning when they are used in the preterite. This fact is clearly seen when it comes to translating them into English. It is then when their new meaning in the preterite is conveyed in English by using verbs different from the verb to know, which is the most direct translation of saber and conocer in the present.

The most common meaning of saber when used in the present is “to know information” or “to know how to do something,” but when used in the preterite, it also means “to find out, to hear or learn about something.” Also, the most common meaning of conocer when used in the present is “to know a person or to be acquainted with someone,” but when used in the preterite, it also means “to meet someone.” These second meanings in the preterite are widely most common than the original meaning “to know”. Compare the examples below.

Saber in the Present

sé, sabes, sabe, sabemos, sabéis, saben

¿Sabes qué hora es?
Do you know what time it is?

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