Many European languages, unlike English, have two verbs for “to know”. One for factual knowledge and one for experienced-based knowledge. In this post, I‘ll explain what these verbs are in German and show when we would use them.
“Wissen“ is used for knowing something for a fact, while “kennen” denotes knowledge that is based on experience and familiarity.
Ich weiß, dass London die Hauptstadt Großbritanniens ist.
(I know that London is the capital of the UK)
Sie weiß, dass sie morgen arbeiten muss.
(She knows that she needs to work tomorrow)
Ihr wisst, dass ich Griechenland liebe.
(You know that I love Greece)
As you see from the above, it is very common to use wissen followed by a dass clause in German. All of these statements are factual, even the third one as you wouldn’t be able to acquire this knowledge based on experiences.
Ich kenne viele griechische Inseln, weil ich jeden Sommer in Griechenland Urlaub mache.
(I know many Greek islands because I spend holiday there every summer)
Er kennt sie seit der Schulzeit.
(He has known her since their time at school)
Wir kennen viele deutsche Wörter.
(We know many German words)
Any student of the German language will understand why the last example is using “kennen” because it requires a lot of experienced-based effort and repetition to learn German words.
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