Italian Verbs: SAPERE conjugated in 4 Tenses

By Manu Venditti | All Levels

Italian Verbs : SAPERE 

To Know / To Be Able To

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:

  1. IL PRESENTE (present tense)
  2. L’IMPERFETTO (imperfect tense)
  3. IL PASSATO PROSSIMO (present perfect tense)
  4. IL FUTURO SEMPLICE (simple future tense)

SAPERE is irregular in the Present Tense and is conjugated as follows:

io SO
I know/ I can

tu SAI
you know / you can

lei / lui / Lei SA
he knows / she knows / you know (polite)he can / she can / you can (polite)

noi SAPPIAMO
we know / we can

voi SAPETE
you guys know / you guys can

loro SANNO
they know / they can

Examples

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.

io SAPEVO
I knew / I used to knowI could / I used to be able to

 tu SAPEVI
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

noi SAPEVAMO
we knew / we used to knowwe could / we used to be able to

voi SAPEVATE
you guys knew / you guys used to knowyou guys could / you guys used to be able to

loro SAPEVANO
they knew / they used to knowthey could / they used to be able to

Examples

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!)

This last phrase is an example of how SAPERE is used to mean “to taste like”.


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

Examples

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!

Enter your text here...

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

 io SAPRÒ
I will know / I might know / I must know

tu SAPRAI
you will know / you might know / you must know

lei / lui / Lei SAPRÀ
he / she / you (pol.) will know / might know / must know

noi SAPREMO
we will know / we might know / we must know

voi SAPRETE
you guys will know / you guys might know / you guys must know

loro SAPRANNO
they will know / they might know / they must know

Examples

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.

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