What is the difference between poder and conseguir?
Both poder and conseguir seem to mean "can". When do I use one or the other?
They sometimes have the same meaning. Example, both poder and conseguir means ability. Eu posso/consigo cozinhar, but the second one is more used. Conseguir is frequently used to capacity and poder for permission. (Posso sair mais cedo? Can i leave earlier?)
I am a native Spanish speaker. In Spanish (as well as in Portuguese) "poder" refers to the possibility of doing something, while "conseguir" is related to the ability to do something. "Eu posso" means "I can", "Eu consigo" means "I can" (as in "I am able to")
I'm not a Portuguese expert (so correct me if I'm wrong!), but studying the language as well as talking to native speakers has made me come to the idea that you can sort of link "poder" with the english word "can" while conseguir you can link to "manage" . For example, "Can you give me that cup?" You would use "Pode me dar esse copo?" (If you think in English and use "manage" or conseguir, it wouldn't really make sense, yeah?) Likewise for "Did you manage to find bla?" You would say "Conseguiu procurar bla?"
This makes sense and you can make this generalization, but be careful because there are always exceptions. Sou português já agora.
poder is to be able to do something. I can do this or that:
"Eu posso ouvir musica" (I can hear music/ I am able to ear music)
it can also transmit an "if I may" action, on a question:
"posso ajuda-lo?" (May I help you?)
"posso querer, eventualmente" (I may want to, eventually)
Conseguir is to do (also), or to achieve:
"eu consigo fazer isto!" (I can do it!)
"Eu consigo sorrir virado para baixo" (I can smile upside down)
Is it really like this? I´m studying european portuguese and I only got to know the meaning of conseguir=to manage. Do you use it to express that sombody is able to, say, cook in general? I only find stuff like to achieve, to manage ect. or like "I´ll do it!" (which can be "I´ll manage" as well). Perhaps my dictionaries forgot some brazilian expression (though it is said on the books that they consider european and brazilian portuguese).
I do believe "consigo cozinhar" would be the preferred form for "I can cook," as in "I know how to cook." I think a sort of distinction arises in that "consigo cozinhar" means "I manage to cook" i.e. "I cook well" or "I know how to cook / I succeed at cooking," whereas "posso cozinhar" is more about the circumstances surrounding the cooking, as in I am physically able to cook, I may cook, the circumstances allow that I cook, I am bodily able to cook, etc.
Por exemplo: "Quer almocar agora? Acabei de acordar, mas posso cozinhar para voce, se quiser." (Forgive my lack of accents -- this laptop doesn't have a Portuguese keyboard installed) This would be something like, "Do you want to eat lunch now? I just woke up, but I can cook for you, if you'd like" or something of that sort.
Conseguir also generally implies that you are attempting, or you want to be able to. "I cannot sleep" would be "Nao consigo dormir!" because the person has been trying and cannot manage to sleep. "Nao consigo entender o que ta dizendo" -- I can't understand what you're saying, implying that you are attempting to understand, but failing. It is a bit more closely linked to success and failure than poder, which generally just implies ability based on surroundings or situation, irrespective of intent or desire.
It's only made more complicated by the fact that "conseguir" is also a common word for "get, acquire, obtain" -- "voce conseguiu bilhetes do show de Caetano Veloso?? Que legal, veiiii", something like "You got tickets to the Caetano Veloso concert??? That's awesome, dude!" (although it is potentially unlikely that a Brazilian using the young slang "legal" and "vei" have much desire to see an old classic Tropicalia singer/player like Caetano (maybe "bacana"would be more appropriate vocab, ha). But either way!)
I hope something here helped!!
Try this way:
Posso usar o banheiro? (May I use the bathroom?)
Você consegue (sabe) cozinhar? (Can you cook?)
Posso cozinhar? (May I cook?)
Eu consigo cozinhar (I CAN cook (I'm able to..))
I think it is very similar to the may/can distinction as Pauloenrique pointed out.