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When to use "ved" and when to use "kender" for the verb "to know?"

So the Duolingo course for Danish includes both "jeg ved" and "jeg kender" as ways to say "I know". Is there any difference between these expressions? Is there any related context or way in which the two phrases differ? Perhaps being used for different things, similarly to conocer vs. saber in Spanish? Any info you can provide would be appreciated.

October 3, 2014



One use "jeg ved" when one is talking about things you know. Like: I know it, I know when to use that phrase, etc. "Jeg kender" is used when you know someone. "I know him/her/Carl". I hope this helps. :-)


I hope I'm not causing confusion here, but if it is the same in Danish as in German ("to know" can be translated as either "wissen" or "kennen"), the distinction between things and persons is not entirely valid. For instance, you could ask "Kennst du dieses Auto?" ("do you know this car?") in German. You would use "kennen" when the background of your question is "Have you seen him/her/it before? / Do you know/can you tell me something about him/her/it?".

As a rule of thumb: "kennen" needs only an object, whereas sentences with "wissen" are usually more complex, often with subordinate clauses etc. So if you want to say "I know her" (with "her" being the only object) you can be sure that the verb you need is "kennen". Whereas more complex constructions like "I know how to...", "I know when... happened", "I know which school she attended" etc. would need "wissen".

But I cannot guarantee that it works 100% the same in Danish.


that is exactly what our Danish teacher told us...you refresh my memory :)


I think you are right there.


Ah, thank you! So it IS like the saber/conocer distinction in Spanish, ja?


You're welcome. :) Actually I do not know the difference between those two, but it seems to me to be right.


I think that "jeg kender" could also mean to be familiar with, it doesn't have to be a person. So you would say "Jeg kender hans hus" instead of "Jeg ved hans hus" because you are familiar with the house, you don't actually KNOW the house.


Jeg kjenner til det huset. - I know that house. Jeg vet om det huset - I know about that house.

Wouldn't that be right? And yeah, it is Norwegian.


I think they would both be correct :)


I know this discussion is bordering on ancient by now. But I just want to point out that in Danish, you cannot use "at vide", the way that Stefan is using it in the Norwegian sentence, not on its own at least.

Jeg kender til huset = I know about the house. (This implies that you have some form of knowledge about it, but doesn't specify what. It also faintly implies that the knowledge you have is not intimate.)

Jeg kender huset = I know the house. (This implies you have intimate knowledge of the house. You have been inside etc. )

If you want to express that you know about the house using "at vide", you have to form a more complex sentence.

Jeg ved noget om huset = I know something about the house. (This implies you know something specific about the house. That it was built in 1932 or that there are ghosts in the basement or whatever.)


An aside: There's a lovely old danish children's song that starts "Jeg ved en lærkerede" which means "I know of a larch's nest" but in present Danish you would say "Jeg kender til en lærkerede" or "jeg ved hvor der er en lærkerede". Which doesn't rime very well :-)

Having just looked over saber/conocer it seems saber=vide and conocer=kender.


Here's an answer I gave elsewhere:

ved (vide): have sikker information om noget; have erfaret at noget er sikkert eller sandt (to have certain information about something; to have experienced that something is certain or true).

kender (kende, and this is just one of the definitions): vide hvem nogen er; være personlig bekendt med (know who somebody is; be personally familiar with).

It's funny how "vide" appears in the definition of "kende". But generally "vide" is about something brain related, where "kende" is related to pretty much everything else.

Some guy also attempted to express the difference, found here: http://jesperhansen.co.uk/vide-or-kende/

But I realize that this is not trivial, and even though they may seem interchangeable they aren't.

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