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  5. "Ellos saben contar."

"Ellos saben contar."

Translation:They know how to count.

March 8, 2013



Where does "how" come from in the Spanish words? The translation makes sense but I don't understand how I should have discerned the word "how" from the Spanish words as written.

March 8, 2013


"Saber" means 'to know how" to do something Some verbs require prepositions, some have the preposition "built in," like saber and mirar (to look at)

March 8, 2013


How would one say "he knows to count" then? The phrase makes sense without the "how" but it has a different meaning.

September 4, 2015


"He knows to count" is short for "he knows that he should count." ("Él sabe que debe contar".)

September 23, 2018


In my part of the English speaking world I do not know how we would use "he knows to count." To me, that phrase does not make sense.

September 4, 2015


"Did you tell him to double check when he loads the truck?"
"He knows to count"
"Make sure he isn't just estimating the attendance."
"He knows to count."

Both sentences make perfect sense. One means that a person is ABLE the other means a person is aware that he SHOULD.

November 7, 2015


Scenario on a factory production line... Owner to supervisor: "Does that new worker know what he's supposed to be doing?" Supervisor's response: "He knows to count." In this type of scenario it is known that he has the ability to count; the question is whether or not he knows that is what he is supposed to do for his job.

September 16, 2015


I say "he knows to count" in English, but I don't think you can use "sabe contar" that way in Spanish. (At least, not that I've ever heard; a native speaker might correct me.) I'd say, "sabe que tiene que contar," or something like that: he knows that he has to count.

May 2, 2016


Maybe .... sabe que tenga que contar OR sabe que tienes que contar ??? Not sure if subjunctive is correct here or not, hence the two versions. "He knows (that he has) to count"

March 24, 2017


Saber + infinitive verb = to know how to do that verb.

August 4, 2013

March 8, 2013


Reading this link makes it even more confusing, since Cliffs Notes defines contar as "to count on" which is not at all the translation given. I guess I just need more exposure over time to discern the multiple uses and subtle distinctions of usage of the words, rather than their dictionary definition.

March 16, 2013


"Saber" is "to know how to". "contar(conjugated) con" = "to count on" . "Contar" alone does not have that meaning.

March 16, 2013


ladyg and many others: Please read sainio's comment near the end of this long thread (not the one above). It explains everything.

July 3, 2016


I'm pretty sure that in this case 'saber' means 'can': "They can count"

but it was marked as incorrect... :(

September 2, 2013


That's because "they can count" is "ellos pueden contar" but "ellos saben contar" is "they know [how to] count" .. it's just that the "how to" part is implied when put in front of an infinitive.

August 5, 2014


You can use "saber" to mean "can" if the sense is "know how", as in "¿Sabe hablar español?" - "Can you speak Spanish?"

On the other hand, Duo will distinguish between saber and poder exactly as you have in order to avoid confusing us. That is, Duo discourages use of some words when a more direct translation is available.

October 8, 2017


I thought it might be "they know to tell". Get confused with when contar means to count and when it means to tell.

April 4, 2014


I also had - how to tell- i think you need more context to decide if it's telling or counting!

April 22, 2014


My primary learning program, Living Language, explains the difference between saber and conocer as: saber is to know a fact or topic; conocer is to know people, places, etc. Neither one talked about "how" as an understood adjunct, so I was (and still am) a bit confused.

March 8, 2013


Normally two Spanish words for "to be able to" are used. "saber" which says somebody has the knowledge or ability: Ellos saben contar = they have the ability to count. "Poder" says that there is the possibility or occasion. Ellos lo pueden encontrar acquí = they have the occasion to find him here (because tomorrow he will be out). In short: "They can count" and "They can find him here". If you want to be very precise you can translate "Ellos saben contar" as "they know how to count" which is a rather formal way of saying "they can count." This phrase was not about the difference between "saber" and "conocer" but "sabre" and "poder"

March 16, 2013


I just want to pick a tiny nit: "they know how to count" is not at all formal to my American ears and is not precisely the same as "they can count", tho the two sentences can sometimes be used interchangeably.

December 1, 2013


I noticed a long time ago that, in romance languages, the verb that literally means "to know" (e.g. Spanish 'saber', French 'savoir', Italian 'sapere') is preferred where English uses 'can' to talk about ability . For that reason, both 'they can count' and 'they know how to count' should be accepted as translations of 'saben contar'.

January 26, 2017


siebolt, nice in-depth explanation. Thanks.

May 11, 2013


Would you translate "they know to count" as "ellos saben a contrar"?

March 28, 2014


'They know to count' is not correct English usage, unless you are thinking of the rather far-fetched meaning 'They know that they ought to count.' (A more reasonable example is 'They know to knock before entering.')

March 29, 2014


In the first place, what specifically about that sentence is faulty? Are "They know to ask" or "They know to stop" both incorrect as well?
As for the way it can be applied, there are several examples provided in this thread so I won't add more here.
I had thought there would be a distinction in the translations and after checking half a dozen online translation/dictionary sites found that I was both right and wrong. Every place I looked gave me the same two answers.
They know how to count. = Ellos saben cómo contar.
They know to count. = Ellos saben contar.

November 7, 2015


The authors of those “translations” don’t seem to know the difference between translation and word substitution.

December 7, 2018


How would you translate that 'far-fetched meaning' into Spanish?

July 28, 2014


I don't know how to translate it, but I guess the phrase that I imagine would be the gramatically correct analog would be: they know that they should count. I imagine it might be something like: ellos saben que deberían contar. Again, that's just a guess.

February 2, 2015


I read the whole thread, and you people who are quoting your primary Spanish learning programs are missing a BIG point here. For a lot of us, this is our ONLY learning program and if a verb commonly means "know HOW," we would rather find out that definition before we are asked to write it as an answer that will be marked WRONG merely for remembering the definition as taught, or as listed on the drop-down hints. On other verbs, Duo has put the "understood" words in parentheses, and should do so, obviously with saber. The only way Duo-owl has shown us was marked wrong! Sheesh! And, yes, we are told the grammar examples for many phrases can be incorporated into more complete sentences, as this one can: "They know to count the cups at the concession stand as a way to note the sales of soda or beer after they close for the day." (And yes, I still like the program and I am glad it's free, for those about to tell me to chill out.)

March 28, 2016


"Saber" generally means "to know how" as to know how to swim. "Conocer" means know in the sense of "to be familar with' or "to be acquainted with."

November 3, 2013


I can think of several ways that "They know to count" could come up in a conversation. In this big long thread has anyone addressed an actual way to say the abovementioned rather than the accepted answer. I think it's a little unimaginative to say this could never come up and completely false to say it's grammatically incorrect.


P1: I told them to only let five people in; are they keeping track?

P2: Of course, they know to count.

September 6, 2015


I have read the thread and am still none the wiser. Can Duo provide us with a final answer please? As far as I can tell Ellos saben contar means they know to count. If however ellos saben contar also means they know HOW to count, then I accept that, but would like official confirmation of same since google says como is needed. If not then how would one say: 'they know to count vs they know how to count' in Spanish?

ta muchly

April 30, 2016


"Ellos saben contar" means "they know how to count," in the sense that they've learned to count: it's something they're able to do.

It's also possible to say "ellos saben cómo contar" (and we accept it as a translation), but that means they know in what manner they should count. (Should they count fast or slow? Should they count by twos or tens? Should they count silently or aloud?)

When we say "they know to count" in English, we generally mean something like "they know that they need to count" or "they know that they should count." You can't (as far as I know) use "saben contar" that way in Spanish; instead, you'd probably say something like "saben que tienen que contar" or "saben que deberían contar."

July 2, 2016


Great explanation, sainio. I now understand the context of "saber cómo contar". It had not occurred to me that "know how" to do something has these two distinct meanings in English.

July 3, 2016


Where does one find the reference to "how" in this sentence?

July 2, 2016


This is a case in which English and Spanish formulate the sentence differently. In English, when you know how to do something, you say "I know how to [count/read/swim/whatever]." In Spanish, you don't need the "how": you normally just use "saber" and the infinitive of whatever you know how to do: "sé contar" or "sé leer" or "sé nadar."

July 2, 2016


I wrote, "they can count" accepted.

April 12, 2017


Ellos saben contar is what i wrote

August 20, 2014


Can someone translate " they can tell" ?

June 8, 2015


I love how just a while ago the translated contar as tell...

April 22, 2017


The prompt should perhaps be, "Ellos saben cómo contar" -- no? "They know to count" is also correct English, albeit with a different meaning.

July 8, 2017


There's some great information in the comments in this discussion. You are strongly advised to read through it (perhaps, starting with comments from sainio). If you don't want to read through all of it, just search the page for "sainio."

October 8, 2017


Where English uses "know how to", Spanish, like any other Romance language (French, Italian, Portuguese etc.) omits the "how to" part.

July 10, 2017


How can we distinguish between "contar" meaning "count" and meaning "to tell"?

July 28, 2017


Typically through context and what makes sense. Without more context, I assume an actual sentence would include an object to clarify what is being counted or told (e.g., count numbers, tell stories).

If you tried "tell" and it was marked wrong, Duo was probably thinking only of counting and not telling. However, "they can tell" is a perfectly good alternative and should be reported.

October 8, 2017


This would normally be 'they can count' in English as it implies that they know how to count! Saber in Spanish like savoir in French is invariably 'can' in natural English.

November 10, 2017


That is, only before another verb.

December 7, 2018


How do you distinguish contar to count or to tell ( like a story )

November 26, 2017


February 25, 2018


How do you know if "contar" means "to count" or "to tell"?

May 30, 2018


“To tell” also means “to count”. “All told” means “all counted”, and the person in a bank who serves customers is called “teller”. T in ATM stands for “telling” which is about counting money.

May 31, 2018


I think that "All told" actually is "All tolled," yeah? And ATM stands for, "Automated Teller Machine." Am I wrong?

May 31, 2018


Here again we have a controversial sentence; there is difference with counting and counting. I tried with my wife to take one out of two - Soon enough we were three! ( : D)

September 23, 2018


Does contar mean to count or to tell?

December 7, 2018


They know counting - should alos be accepted

November 22, 2019
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