SAPERE is one of the most useful verbs you can know in Italian. It’s a really versatile verb that actually has six different meanings depending on the context. If you want to discover all the meanings of SAPERE, I spoke all about it here.
However, today we will be focusing on the two main meanings of SAPERE - “to know” and “to be able to”, and how to conjugate it in four different tenses:
SAPERE is irregular in the Present Tense and is conjugated as follows:
I know/ I can
you know / you can
lei / lui / Lei SA
he knows / she knows / you know (polite)he can / she can / you can (polite)
we know / we can
you guys know / you guys can
they know / they can
SCUSI, SA A CHE ORA ARRIVA IL TRENO?
Excuse me, do you know what time the train arrives? (polite)
NON SAPPIAMO CUCINARE MOLTO BENE.
We can’t cook very well.
QUEI RAGAZZI SANNO PARLARE QUATTRO LINGUE.
Those guys can speak four languages.
L’IMPERFETTO is one of the two main past tenses in Italian and is used to describe events in the past.
Luckily for us, SAPERE is completely regular in the Imperfect Tense.
I knew / I used to knowI could / I used to be able to
you knew / you used to knowyou could / you used to be able to
lei / lui / Lei SAPEVA
he / she / you (pol.) knew / he / she / you (pol.) used to knowhe / she / you (pol.) could / he / she / you (pol.) used to be able to
we knew / we used to knowwe could / we used to be able to
you guys knew / you guys used to knowyou guys could / you guys used to be able to
they knew / they used to knowthey could / they used to be able to
DA PICCOLO SAPEVO NUOTARE BENISSIMO, MA ADESSO NO.
When I was young, I used to be able to swim really well, but not anymore.
NON SAPEVI CHE PARLO PORTOGHESE?
Didn’t you know that I speak Portuguese?
LA ZUPPA DI IERI NON SAPEVA DI NIENTE!
Yesterday’s soup was tasteless! (didn’t taste like anything!)
The PASSATO PROSSIMO is the second main past tense in Italian and is used to talk about events that took place in the past.
SAPERE actually takes on a slightly different meaning the vast majority of the time when conjugated in the PASSATO PROSSIMO.
The meaning changes from “knowing something” to:
finding out something
becoming aware of something
hearing about something
io HO SAPUTO
I found out / I heard
tu HAI SAPUTO
you found out / you heard
lei / lui / Lei HA SAPUTO
he / she / you (pol.) found out/ he / she / you (pol.) heard
noi ABBIAMO SAPUTO
we found out / we heard
voi AVETE SAPUTO
you guys found out / you guys heard
loro HANNO SAPUTO
they found out / they heard
HAI SAPUTO CHE MARIA SI SPOSA?
Did you hear that Maria is getting married?
MIA SORELLA HA SAPUTO IL RISULTATO DEGLI ESAMI.
My sister found out her exam results.
HAI SAPUTO DEL TERREMOTO A L’AQUILA?...CHE TRISTE!
Did you hear about the earthquake in Aquila?...It’s so sad!
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The Future Tense in Italian is, of course, used to talk about future events, yet in most cases it is actually used to:
make assumptions or suppositions
express uncertainty about future events that may or may not happen
I will know / I might know / I must know
you will know / you might know / you must know
lei / lui / Lei SAPRÀ
he / she / you (pol.) will know / might know / must know
we will know / we might know / we must know
you guys will know / you guys might know / you guys must know
they will know / they might know / they must know
GRAZIE MILLE! UN GIORNO TI SAPRÒ RIPAGARE.
Thank you so much! One day I’ll be able to pay you back.
AL MOMENTO GIUSTO TU E LUCA SAPRETE TUTTO.
You and Luca will know everything at the right time.
FRA DUE O TRE ANNI SAPREMO SUONARE IL PIANOFORTE.
In two or three years we’ll be able to play the piano.