The Use Of The Verb Sapere in Italian

The Use Of The Verb Sapere In Italian

Socrate was used to say that he knew that he didn’t know. This is a good starting point: in fact who doesn’t know makes questions, and making questions is the condition for the knowledge.
Now, our question concerns the meaning of  the verb “sapere”, and especially concerns

***

The use of the verb Sapere in Italian

We talked about this in our previous posts (here and here and here). We just put now together the meanings that we have found.

The Use Of The Verb Sapere in Italian1. Sapere as “To Know How To Do Something”

The Use Of The Verb Sapere In Italian

Here “sapere” is always followed by an infinitive verb and indicates the possession of a certain skill. For example: “So scrivere“, “So parlare in cinese“, “So suonare il pianoforte“, “So nuotare“.
In English, we translate this particular meaning of “sapere” with “can”.  Therefore, when you want to say in Italian “I can swim”, you should not say it “Io posso nuotare“, but “Io so nuotare“.

2. Sapere as  “Conoscere, To Know”

The Use Of The Verb Sapere In Italian

In this case the two verbs (“sapere” and “conoscere”) have an equivalent meaning but different use. In English we use the verb “to know” fot both, but this use in Italian changes.
We can say that: if you want to say in Italian “I know that“, you must use the verb sapere followed by the conjunction che. Instead, if you want to say in Italian “I know something (or someone)”, you must use the verb conoscere. For example “I know that she is a scientist” in Italian is “Io so che lei è una scienziata“, but “I know her” or “I know the Italian literature” in Italian is “Io conosco lei” or “Io conosco la letteratura italiana”. However, there are many other interesting expressions (and many other uses) that are out of this rule. This is an example: “Lui sa tutto.” (“He knows everything”), or “Lui non sa niente” (He knows nothing”) or “Ne sai qualcosa?” (“Do you know anything about it?”).

3. Sapere as “Having The Taste Or The Smell Of”

The Use Of The Verb Sapere In Italian

In this case the verb is intransitive and is followed by the preposition di. Here are some examples: “Questa minestra sa troppo di parmigiano” (has too much the taste of parmigiano), “Questa camera sa di chiuso” (has the smell of), “La pizza sa di bruciato” (has the taste of). Do not forget that in fact the Latin verb “SAPIO”,”Io so” in Italian. From SAPIO comes the Italian verb SAPERE and first of all it indicates the fact of having a flavour. Furthermore do not even forget the word SAPORE: it clearly betrays its origin from the Latin SAPERE (săpĕre).

4. Sapere as “To Believe, To Think”

The Use Of The Verb Sapere In Italian

We use it with an indirect pronoun that precedes. In this context SAPERE indicates precisely, mostly in the spoken Italian, an uncertain knowledge: “Mi sa che domani piove” (“I think/I am afraid that tomorrow it will rein”), “Mi sa che il treno è in ritardo” (“I think/I am afraid that that the trains is in late”), “Mi sa che in pentola non bolle nulla di buono.” Here you don’t have only the idea of an uncertain knowledge , but also the idea that, in some way, a bad news is expected. It does not happen always by the way. In the expressions “Mi sa di sì” and “Mi sa di no” equivalent to “Credo di sì” (“I think so”) and “Credo di no” (“I don’t think so”), the expressions are neutral.

It is now everything clear? Chissà! (CHI SA!) Who knows! 😉

Uses and Functions of The Verb Sapere in Italian

 

***

Online Italian Courses

Learn Italian with ITALIAN VIRTUAL SCHOOL
and take a
FREE Trial Class!