"Oui, il savait."

Translation:Yes, he knew.

June 28, 2013



I'm surprised at the pronunciation of "Oui" in this exercise and that nobody has commented on it. I did not even recognize the word!

June 20, 2015


I reported this, hopefully others have done the same. It sounded like he said oyé!

July 5, 2015


I agree it sound strange. I reported it too

September 20, 2015


I reported

July 14, 2016


I heard the man's voice saying this and I too couldn't understand 'oui' from his pronunciation.

June 22, 2015


that was such awful way to say Oui! :(

June 30, 2015


The audio is very bad. The word 'oui' is very strangely pronounsed. Can somebody fix it?

July 30, 2015


Probably, but that person won't.

July 8, 2016


No one seems to have actually replied to this so I will :-) This is a very common way of saying 'yes' in France. If you listen to a few YouTube video's or films, or in fact fairly much anything at all, you'll hear it all the time. Officially it's spelt 'Ouais' though, rather than 'Qui' and it's more casual. More like 'Yeah' than 'Yes'.

June 16, 2017


Except that 'Ouais" sounds more like 'Ouay' whereas this sound more like 'ouyez', which means 'Oh'.

November 28, 2017


Thanks, Nicola, that is great info!

June 16, 2017


Except "Ouais" doesnt sound anything like what is heard here in DL.

September 19, 2018


I agree. I think he's a new addition right? maybe that's why there are no old comments here.

June 24, 2015


same here

July 28, 2015


Je suis d'accord. It sounded like "oooh-E"

August 7, 2015


Not the first instance of "oyee" or similarly terrible pronunciations I've come across on duolingo. It's why they have no business charging money, and why kid it's impossible to trust and therefore learn, from duolingo... How do i know I'm not leaning to pronounce other things wrong on duo?

May 6, 2017


Is there a difference in the pronounciation of savait and savaient?

June 28, 2013


No, there is not. They only way to differentiate the two is by context.

June 28, 2013


I get these wrong and mixed up all the time too. They should accept both singular and plural in these cases because there is no differentiation in the pronunciation.

January 2, 2014


I answer "ils savaient" in plural they didn't accept it, as you said there is no difference in the pronounciation

October 8, 2015


I never know when to say "il savait" and when "il a su" because when you have known something it has always been for some time, i.e. I used to know. So what is the difference? Also should I say "Je ne le savait pas" or "Je ne l'ai pas su" if I didn't know something?

December 19, 2013

  • 1750

«Il savait», by using the Imperfect tense, could be interpreted as "he used to know" given context that allows it. «Il a su» is simply "he knew". There are a number of specific implications about the use of the Imperfect tense. Lawless has some helpful information. Perhaps this is more technical but I found an excellent text, Barron's "501 French Verbs", which explains when to use the Imperfect tense this way:

1) an action was going on in the past at the same time as another action, e.g., Il lisait pendant que j'écrivais, (he was reading while I was writing),

2) an action was going on in the past when another action occurred, e.g., Il lisait quand je suis entré, (he was reading when I came in),

3) an action that a person did habitually in the past, e.g., nous allions à la plage tous les jours (we used to go to the beach every day). [Note: only context will tell you if it was habitual/repeated, e.g. "tous les jours"),

4) a description of a mental or physical condition in the past, e.g., Il était triste quand je l'ai vu (he was sad when I saw him), and

5) an action or state of being that occurred in the past and lasted for a certain length of time prior to another past action, e.g., J'attendais l'autobus depuis dix minutes quand il est arrivé (I had been waiting for the bus for ten minutes when it arrived).

January 19, 2014


Excellent! Thanks. My equivalent to your Barron's is Macgraw Hill's "Big Blue Book of French Verbs." Also good, with clear tense explanations.

My book adds one criterion (which may be buried in one of Barron's): It's "used in indirect discourse, that is, to report what someone said. It follows the past tense of verbs such as "dire" to say and "écrire" to write." Examples: "Elle m'a dit qu'elle allait au cinema." She told me she was going to the movies."

"Nous leur avons écrit que nous voulions les voir à Londres." We wrote them that we wanted to see them in London.

Thanks also for the explanation in your second post. It's much appreciated!

January 20, 2014

  • 1750

Interesting. I will make a note of that one! It sounds a bit like the flip-side of #2 and the structure seems identical except that the Passé Composé phrase comes first followed by the Imperfect phrase. In any case, it makes complete sense. Thanks!

January 21, 2014


Also see Laura Lawless's explanations which are very helpful too: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/imperfect.htm

I still can't find any explanations for exceptions to #4) a description of a mental or physical condition in the past. I consider such verbs as:

savoir vouloir être when describing someone/thing croire

Here are some more exceptions from characters' conversations in Philippe Claudels novel on discussing the stranger's visit:

<< Il y avait d'autres témoins ... mais je n'ai pas cru bon d'aller plus loin. >>

<< Quand il est venu me voir ... je n'ai pas su l'entendre ... >> << J'ai cru que c'était un farceur ...>> << Je n'ai pas su quoi lui répondre sur le coup. >>

I'm wondering if sur le coup is the clue here - it may be a mental process but a fleeting one, not one of unspecified duration.

Conversely, here is the imperfect where I would have expected passé composé:

<< Il sortait d'où ... d'un cirque ? >> He wasn't in the process of leaving when this was said - he'd just arrived at his destination.

January 21, 2014


Duo did not accept my answer "he used to know". Thanks for you explanation above and thereafter.

March 27, 2015


This is a great explanation and so is Laura Lawless's. Thank you. My confusion specifically with this verb savoir is that it fulfills 4) and usually 5). I had heard French locals say "Tu ne l'as pas su?" when I thought my state of not knowing had lasted for some length of time. Anyway, last night I found some text that might explain it from Le Rapport de Brodeck by Claudel:

<< Quand il est venu me voir ... Je n'ai pas su l'entendre ... Il était si différent ... >>

The speaker didn't understand him at that specific time of the visit.

Perhaps if he hadn't understood him before the meeting but now did he would have said during the meeting:

<< Je ne savais pas vous entendre mais maintenant je le sais ! >> and in this report of the meeting he would have said:

<< Quand il est venu me voir ... Je n'avais pas su l'entendre ... >>

"He was so different" is in the imperfect because it is his habitual description (being usually different to other people). If the speaker said << Il a été si différent >>, perhaps that would mean he was different to how he normally is at that particular time.

If anyone can confirm this or explain if it's wrong, that would be helpful!

January 20, 2014

  • 1750

The information helped me and I'm glad to share it. Note that conditions 1 and 2 are both concerning actions that occurred (and were completed) in the past, so it's not about one action in the past compared with another in the present. I believe that the use of Imperfect tense is constrained by these conditions (any one of them must be suited to the situation). That is to say, one should not use Imperfect tense (condition 1 or 2) without the reference to a second action which was also completed in the past. Condition 3 requires only a habitual action in the past; it does not require a reference to another past action. Condition 4: a state of being in the past. Condition 5 is very specific as to how it is applied.

We have seen many examples of the Imperfect tense being used (without the 2nd action in the past) leading us to conclude that it must have been applied under a different condition, i.e., it must be a habitual action, leading us to translate it as "We used to...." or "We would..." (referring to the habitual nature of that action, e.g. «Nous allions à la plage...»)...only to be told that was wrong and it should be "We WENT to the beach...." And there is the problem.

If one wanted to say simply "We went to the beach" (without implying a habitual action IN THE PAST), one could use Passé Composé to say «Nous sommes allées à la plage.» But if you translate "we went to the beach" to French using the Imperfect tense («Nous allions à la plage») you have just injected into the sentence a meaning that may not have been present in the original statement. I say it MAY not have been present because, who knows: maybe the family was sitting around reminiscing about how we used to go to the beach and that's what you meant when you said, "We went to the beach". Fine. But if you were not referring to a habitual action in the past, then the use of the Imperfect «Nous allions à la plage» is not a correct translation, even though by itself it is a perfectly fine and grammatically correct sentence in French. This becomes more of a problem when the Imperfect tense is used (incorrectly) as a substitute for simple past tense statements. We start to think, "Oh, I get it. If I want to say 'I went to Disneyland', I can say 'J'allais à Disneyland'." But that statement in French suggests that "I used to go to Disneyland" and not "I went to Disneyland."

«Il était si différent» is not a habitual action. It is not an action at all. It is a state of being. Look again at condition #4. To use Imperfect in this sentence indicates that he was different (in the past....not an on-going thing) and that he's not that way now.

I hope I have not worn you down by this explanation. This is how I understand the 5 conditions for using the Imperfect tense anyway. Good luck!

January 20, 2014


It's a great explanation! Thank you. I've always considered savoir a #4, e.g., je savais or je ne savais pas is an mental condition in the past. However, I note that the perfect is sometimes used in real life. I want to be sure I'm not saying "je ne le savais pas" when I should be saying "je ne l'ai pas su"!

January 20, 2014


Il a su does it mean he knew and he forgot. Because of he hasn't forgot we should use il savait. In according to what you say

February 11, 2015

  • 1750

"Il a su" would be "He has known" or in short "He knew". It does not imply that he forgot anything. Duo's choice of "He used to know" is a little strange for this verb but the use of imperfect past without reference to other conditions implies one of two things: he would repeatedly/often/habitually know (something) such as we might say "Dad (always) knew when we snuck out of the house" -or- at some time in the past, he did know (something), i.e., a momentary state of being regarding an action in the past. The latter use of the imperfect is not one of the five uses I have listed elsewhere; it is referred to as "setting the scene". I.e., it states that something was going on "in the past". It does not carry any implication about what the present state is.

February 11, 2015


I dislike Duo enabling a "use to" for past condition, state, attitude. You quickly learn to put "use to" in front of every present tense verb, no matter how clumsy the construction, and you get can get through the lesson with a simple rule of thumb. It teaches the word without the meaning. I agree that this sentence could easily be setting a scene, and nothing is implied about knowing or not knowing in the present.

March 21, 2015

  • 1750

It's interesting that you should mention this. Specifically, the verb "know" is a stative verb. It describes a state, not an action. The issue of stative vs. active verbs can be a real can of worms. Some verbs are always stative; some are always active; and others can be used either way depending on context. Duo has become aware of this issue and recognizes that improvement is needed. The other issue is that without context, the use of the imperfect tense alone is insufficient to warrant the interpretation of a habitual action because there are other (stative) uses which may apply. So to help that along, context will be added where appropriate. The changes may cause gnashing of teeth but they are necessary. Fasten your seat belt and hang on for the ride.

March 21, 2015


then wouldn't "He did know" be correct?

January 10, 2015

  • 1750

I would consider it to be an acceptable alternative, FWIW. It's interesting how in English, this structure automatically places emphasis on the word "did", i.e., He DID know (considered to be "emphatic"). Is that what you want to do? Consider the sentence, "This is mine", the different ways it may be spoken and the not-so-subtle change in meaning which that emphasis brings:

  • THIS is mine
  • This IS mine
  • This is MINE
January 10, 2015


n6zs Always nice to have your input.

July 14, 2015


"Yes, he used to know" needs to be added, right? Like, He used to know and then he had a brain injury...or forgot.

April 30, 2018


I would like to note that examples #2 & #5 are identical, an action interrupted by another.

February 24, 2019


Since my previous post, I've found an interesting bit of information on french.about.com under "all about savoir". You should always use the imparfait as the passé composé has a different meaning. It means "to find out". The example given is: J'ai su qu'il avait menti. (I found out that he'd lied). In other words, it's about the moment of knowing, which is sort of logical.

March 17, 2014


My French tutor told me something similar about voulait in the negative construction. She said that "il ne voulait pas partir" is translated and means "he didn't want to leave". The passé composé "il n’a pas voulu partir" means "he refused to leave"! She said something like this applied to pouvoir, but could not recall ...

March 21, 2015


Thanks a lot.
Here's the link if anyone wonders about the verb 'savoir'

May 6, 2015


ils savaient sounds the same and should not be marked wrong

February 13, 2016


Could be oui ils savaient, but that was marked as wrong.

August 20, 2017


Why not: "Yes, he was knowing." "He knew" should be past tense, I thought. Il a su.

May 31, 2014


We don't usually use "know" in continuous tenses in English as it is a stative verb.

January 18, 2016


True, but that may be changing. For example, the McDonald's slogan is "I'm loving it!" and the progressive aspect of stative verbs seems well entrenched in the English of India;


May 6, 2017


Why is this translated as "knew" for the imparfait? From what I know, imparfait is normally translated as "did know" or "used to know" or even "was knowing", while things like "knew" are passé composé.

June 27, 2014


Look at n6zs' comments above. You can't always translate "he knew" by the perfect and in English we don't always say "he was knowing" or "he used to know" when the French use imperfect. The imparfait isn't interchangable with the progressive and the passé composé isn't always used to translate the simple past. You have to learn the rules for language rather than try to translate word for word.

June 28, 2014


Yes, he would know is the conditional, which would be: Oui il saurait. There is often confusion between the imperfect and the conditional because of incorrect use of the latter in English. For example, people say: When I was young I would go to the park every Sunday, which should be I used to go to the park every Sunday or I went to the park every Sunday. There is no such confusion in French.

August 22, 2014


The male voice is pronouncing OI!! not we...

July 24, 2015


Is there any way to distinguish the pronunciation from ils savient?

August 10, 2016


Nope. Sorry. It does sounds exactly the same.

September 19, 2018


Since there is no difference in sound, it should be accepted as an answer.

January 1, 2019


The solution should allow for "Oui, ils savaient", which sounds exactly the same.

August 5, 2017


That's "Yes, they knew". Sounds the same but the meaning is different.

September 19, 2018


Why is there no "se" before savait? Is this only for some verbs?

February 15, 2014


Savoir isn't reflexive. So "il le sait" means "he knows it", "il le connaît" means "he knows him" and "ils se connaissent" means "they know each other".

Some French verbs are reflexive - "il se rappelle de moi" - he remembers (i.e. reminds himself of) me, "il se lave" - he washes (himself) - "il se couche" - he lies down (i.e. lays himself down).

Here is a great tutorial on pronomial and reflexive verbs: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/pronominalverbs.htm

February 16, 2014


I'm not sure if this point has been covered by the lengthy explanations, but if you know something, it would be very unusual to un-know it. You go on knowing it, which is imperfect. If you do not know something, then you find out, the not knowing is finished with. Unless you are setting a scene in which other things happen, it's perfect.

March 15, 2014


Don't think that's quite right because ... if I did not know something for a long time and now I do ... je ne le savait pas mais maintenant je le sais or I could know how to do something in the past but have lost the skill je savais tricoter quand j'étais jeune mais je ne sais plus le faire. My negative statements in the perfect are momentary not knowing - lors de son arrivée je n'ai pas su lui dire - whereas normally when we talk about mental states like knowing/believing/being we use the imperfect.

March 17, 2014


Why is "Yes, he would know." incorrect?

August 22, 2014


I was marked wrong for 'yes, he knew' and shown 'yes, he'd know'...

February 6, 2015


On a similar sentence using savais, I was marked wrong for not including "how" & now this sentence does not have it. Is it necessary or not?

January 27, 2016


type what you hear. I wrote "Oui, ils savaient." as it was the first possibility that came to my mind. Duolingo says it's wrong and the correct answer is "Oui, il savait.". But there is no difference in pronunciation of the two!

September 26, 2017


I was given "Yes he did know" which is not a correct translation - that would be passe compose. The imperfect tense is expressed by knew or used to know.

December 13, 2017


The usage of tenses in French is not exactly parallel to the usage of tenses in English -- you can't always use French tense X where English uses English tense Y and vice versa.

(Also, "he did know" is the same tense in English as "he knew", simple past; it's just more emphatic. The present perfect would be "he has known".)

December 14, 2017


What if it was plural?

December 16, 2017

[deactivated user]

    If you mean if it were "Yes, they knew", that would be "Oui, ils savaient".

    December 16, 2017


    Why is "Oui, ils savaient" not accepted?

    January 15, 2018


    "Yes, he'd know" is the answer given as correct on the question page. This means "he would know" NOT "he DID know." This confuses the issue further and doesn't seem, to me, to be correct translation of "il savait"

    February 8, 2015


    would 'yes, he knew' be accepted??

    March 9, 2015


    savoir can mean to know how to as well as to know, n'est-ce pas?

    March 17, 2015


    why not "yes, he would know"?

    March 24, 2015


    Couldn't this be "yes, he knew how"

    July 10, 2015


    He doesn't say oui, it sounds much more like "ou ils savaient" (or they knew). This is not the correct pronounciation.

    July 14, 2015


    Why an earth does it sound like he's saying 'oi-e' instead of 'oui'

    September 14, 2015


    knew and used to know mean the same thing

    February 3, 2016


    "Yes,he knew."was not correct.!?

    February 29, 2016


    I think 'oui' should be pronounced as /wi/ as well not as /o:wi:/

    February 26, 2017

    [deactivated user]

      I didn't put the comma, and it was marked wrong. It is strange that I can type a wrong letter, and it's just called a "typo". I can miss out a space between two words, and just get a note saying I missed a space. I can miss the full stop at the end of the sentence, and it is accepted as correct. So it seems strange that missing out the comma here is counted as wrong.

      July 24, 2017


      I never use punctuation, and I have done this sentence many times and never been marked wrong. I'm guessing you had a typo in there that you didn't notice.

      July 24, 2017


      Could this not also be 'Yes, he used to know'?

      I had it corrected thus: You used the wrong word. Yes, he did know.

      August 14, 2017


      The woman's voice in the lesson sounds like " Lou ou savait".

      October 10, 2017


      In this contexte you do not know wether it is plural ils or singular il

      October 15, 2017


      hmmm it's pretty shocking that even two years later they still haven't corrected the pronunciation issue.

      November 22, 2017


      I've never heard out said in three syllables.

      November 29, 2017


      oui, ils savaient not accepted 18 Mar 2018. Reported. Duo wants only oui, il savait

      March 18, 2018


      I wrote ''oui, ils savaient'' and it was marked wrong ╭∩╮(ಠ۝ಠ)╭∩╮

      April 26, 2018


      This was a listening test. Could it not also be "ils savaient"?

      May 9, 2018


      From the audio I found it impossible to distinguish singular from plural

      October 23, 2018


      Yes, il savait and ils savaient sound the same.

      October 24, 2018


      If savoir can mean to know how, as it does in other questions, then shouldn't my answer of 'Yes, he knew how' be accepted?

      November 29, 2018


      you really must accept " oui, ils savaient" aussi ! :)

      January 13, 2019


      Could this also be translated as "yes he used to know"?

      February 24, 2019

      • 1532

      Audio still bizarre after more than three years!

      February 24, 2019


      Franchement, je sais pas pourquoi duolingo ne vérifie pas ce qu'on essaie de corriger. Tout le monde dit que la façon dont il dit "oui" n'est pas correct mais ils ne font rien pendant 3 ans du coup

      May 22, 2019
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