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  5. Weten vs. Kennen


Weten vs. Kennen

What exactly is the difference? Can they be used interchangeably? If not, then when do you use which?

December 29, 2014



You can translate 'kennen' as 'to be familiar or acquainted with [person]/[object]/[...]'. 'Weten' is used for facts and things like that. 'Weten' and 'kennen' are not interchangeable.

  • Ik weet wie ze is, maar ik ken haar niet. - I know who she is (I know basic information. Her name e.g.), but I don't know her. (So, you are not friends with her, maybe even never talked to her).

Sometimes both 'kennen' and 'weten' fit. The meaning of the sentence is different then!

  • Ik weet het niet. - I don't know it, never heard of it, never seen it, etc. (Also used when you are not sure about something. - 'Let's do this!' 'Hmm, I don't know...')
  • Ik ken het niet. - I am not familiar with it, but have seen it before or heard about it.

Grammatically, the main difference between 'kennen' and 'weten' is that 'kennen' needs an object, and 'weten' is followed by a clause that begins with 'dat' (that), 'wie' (who), 'hoe' (how), etc.

I see you're learning French as well. It's the same as 'connaƮtre' (=kennen) and 'savoir' (=weten).


Interestingly, this distinction exists in Spanish as well, in the form of "saber" and "conocer" ("to know" and "to be familiar with", respectively).


For my fellow Esperantists out there, it's the same as the difference between "scii" and "koni." Good to know!


German has "kennen" and "wissen."


Great explanation, take a lingot!


Weten is know some sort of knowledge, kennen is to know someone/a word/a movie/a TV show/ etc

  • Ik weet dat mijn naam is lelijk / Ik weet het antwoord
  • Ik ken dit liedje niet / Ik ken de man

Try these ones...

  • Ik _ jouw naam niet
  • Ik _ dat je bent een vrouw
  • Ik _ dit schildpad

[deactivated user]

    Just some small corrections. Don't want to be mean or anything!

    It is:

    Ik weet dat mijn naam lelijk is OR ik weet het, mijn naam is lelijk.

    Difference in English would be I know my name is ugly OR I KNOW (pauze) my name is ugly.

    ik weet dat je een vrouw bent

    ik weet dat dit een schildpad is OR ik ken deze schildpad.

    First one means I know this is a turtle, as in I recognize the species. Second is I know this turtle as in I know this particular animal it belongs to my friend.

    You use the weten en kennen right but the construction of the sentences is off if you know what I mean.

    Hope it helps!


    Why is it "Ik weet dat mijn naam lelijk is" with the is at the end? ... Is "dat" always subordinating?

    [deactivated user]

      it is because of the type of sentence which influences the placing of the words. If it is a stand a lone sentence (probably wrong term I am a Dutch native speaker don't know the English terms for grammar) the verb is usually the second word in the sentece. But if it becomes a supporting sentence (it explains something about the main sentence but it would miss some words as a stand alone sentence. probably what you mean with subordinating) the verb is usually at the end of the sentence.

      "Dat" is practically the same as the English 'that' as in you can use it in different ways:

      that house/dat huis it is interresting that you say ... / het is interresant dat je zegt.... That is ridiculous/ dat is belachelijk


      If I understand correctly, kennen has to do with acquaintance. Maybe a rule of thumb is that if the verb can be translated to "be acquainted with", then it's kennen. Otherwise, it's weten.





      By any chance?


      No, weet weet ken

      Kennen is always used for a specific object, I guess. Like I know this man, I know this turtle, I know this dog, I know this house. But weten is used for like ideas, so I know this man is from Canada, I know this turtle is green, I know this dog is my neighbor's, I know this house is mine.

      We don't have a second verb for it in English which makes it confusing but you'll get it over time I think. But you can probably see the difference in English. It's the difference between knowing a dog, and knowing that a dog is an animal.

      It's hard to explain since there's no actual direct translation of kennen. But if it helps, leren kennen (leren + kennen, together) means to get to know someone. Ik leer hem kennen = I get to know him. Kennen is the idea of just like recognizing/knowing someone / something.


      Actually, the first one is a trick question! Many Dutch people would say "ik ken jouw naam niet" even though technically it should indeed be "ik weet jouw naam niet".

      And it gets even more confusing when you realise that some dialects, like the one generally spoken in Amsterdam, switch around "kennen" and "kunnen".

      "Ik kan jou niet" "Dat ken je niet maken"



      Or Rotterdam! :D


      I think it's common (in all languages) for natives to mess up grammar. Have you ever heard an American speak English? That's a good laugh xD


      Dankjewel. This helped a lot :D


      In context does nummer also mean song? "Zij zingt dit nummer sneller en krachtiger dan Saskia."


      So is this basically Savoir vs connaitre?

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