"Il savait parler."

Translation:He knew how to speak.

August 21, 2013


  • 1754

"Savoir + infinitive" = "to know how to + verb". http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionaries/french-english/savoir/70460 #6. [Edit: "savoir + infinitive" may also be interpreted as "to be able to + verb". Oxford French Dictionary].

February 20, 2014


Your answers are always clear and precise. Thanks!!

July 18, 2014


Thanks George. You're Very helpful yet again..

January 19, 2016


https://youtu.be/Xep0zcHzclo Il faut savoir - Charles Aznavour A great song to illustrate this!

February 10, 2019


Do you need the "how"?... I wrote "He knew to speak" - what's wrong with that?

November 18, 2013


I am wondering the same. And If that is wrong, how then, would you say: "He knew to speak only when spoken to".

July 18, 2014


Still not answered. Some please address this!

November 18, 2014

  • 1754

Yes, you need the "how". "Savoir + verb" = "to know how to + verb".

January 10, 2015


In the mean time the mentioned webpage has become a dead link, the actual URL is: http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais-anglais/savoir/70460. Larouse is in this case with LindyKMH, under #6 Larouse gives as defintion: [pouvoir] to know how to, to be able to. Savoir faire quelque chose - to know how to ou to be able to do something. The first two given examples are:
Tu sais plonger/conduire ? - can you dive/drive ?
Elle ne sait ni lire ni écrire - she can't read or write.
DL accepts 'to can' as a correct translation e.g. 'Elle savait lire - She could read'. So, no further need for 'how'. With all respect for your knowledge, time and efforts.

March 31, 2016


Sorry for the late reply to your plea - and I apologise if someone has already explained, but I answered this question with 'he could speak' which is actually closer to the Engish translation (not the literal one swopping savoir with to know/know how to) I think the problem here is the choice of verb, but I live in France and this structure is used to say 'I know how to swim' etc 'je sais nager' where in English we would naturaly say I can swim' rather than I know how to swim - though I know how to is not correct English, I think it is easier to think 'can' - 'Savez-vous parler francais' (Can you speak French) Hope this helps - better late than never.

June 19, 2015


"i know how to" is totally correct english, what did you mean?

September 1, 2017


she meant 'not incorrect', certainly a typo, judging from the context of her sentence

August 6, 2018


See George's reply.

January 19, 2016


As I'm progressing in the language tree, it's getting increasingly annoying with valid translations not being accepted. Duolingo should open up to get the community to be able to moderate correct translations imo.

August 15, 2014

  • 1754

You have no idea of what people suggest as "my answer is correct, too" when probably more than 95% don't mean the same thing, use an inappropriate word from the hint list, contain numerous grammatical errors, misspelled words, and are idiomatically incorrect in English. I'll give you a very simple example: Est-ce qu'il boit du vin ? A very large number of people translate this as "Is it that...." In reality, when making the shift to English, the literal "est-ce que" hits the cutting room floor but many people are very intent on translating it literally. http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/est-ce-que.htm

May 20, 2015


I wished there was an option for "acceptable but not 100% correct" - e.g. for non-native speakers of the base language. After all, this is a French course, not an English course. Duolingo could then show a "yellow" response popup and mention the correct translation. It would also be polite if there was some feedback to suggestions for "my translation should be accepted". And yes, I've suggested some ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤, mostly because I misread the original sentence. But unfortunately, once sent, I have no way to remove it from your work queue anymore. Anyway, good job you guys working for Duolingo!

January 10, 2019


Would also be nice if I could change censored words instead of just removing them from my text. I used some form of "crap" (wonder if this will be censored again).

January 10, 2019


That's what the "report" option is for.

November 29, 2014


If Duolingo just let us have a free-for-all, then we'd end up with all kinds of incorrect answers that people thought were right being shown as correct. I'm glad they've finally abolished the heart system so that we're no longer punished (much) for Duolingo's errors.

December 21, 2014


Because the infinitif for speak is verb "to speak"

August 5, 2018


How would one say "He knew to talk"?

March 27, 2014


My guess would be that you would have to reword it to clearly distinguish the meaning. So, since he knew to speak roughly means something like he knew he should speak or he knew he had to speak, you can get il savait qu'il devions parler.

April 22, 2015


There is no difference in sense between "he knew how to speak" and " he used to know how to speak". They are both imperfect tense yet the former translation was rejected. Once again, I find the answers in this Imperfect module occasionally to be inconsistent or incorrect.

February 13, 2015


You're saying the Imperfect module answers are imperfect...? :)

February 14, 2015


Ha. I see what you did there. Nice.

But it is a little strange that the previous sentence "Nous allions à la plage au moment du déjeuner" accepts only "we were going to the beach at lunch time" [imperfect past] and rejects "we went to the beach at lunch time" [simple past], whereas this sentence "il savait parler" accepts "he knew how to speak" [simple past] but rejects "he was knowing how to speak" [imperfect past].

November 5, 2016

  • 1754

"Savoir" (to know) is a stative verb in English and is not commonly used in a continuous tense. See here: https://www.thoughtco.com/differences-between-action-and-stative-verbs-1211141

April 2, 2018


Why not "Il savait comment parler."?

August 21, 2013


Same question. Why not "He knew to talk"? Which is also a valid sentence, and sounds like a better translation. Different meaning though.

August 21, 2013


I vaguely remember, after making the same mistake just now, from prior lessons that "savoir" can also imply a know-how...

September 28, 2013


Yes, 'he knew how to talk/he was able to talk/he could talk' although 'could' is ambiguous. 'Could you go?' can have two meanings. 'were you able to go?' or 'would you be able to go?' depending on context.

November 4, 2013


I had "He used to know how to speak" marked wrong. From what I gather from the comments, that used to be the correct answer, and the currently provided correct answer - "He knew how to speak" - used to be marked wrong. Duo's explanation is:

"Context is needed to justify characterizing the verb as representing a habitual/repeated action."

Unless I'm grossly misunderstanding what is meant by habitual, it seems that EVERY past imperfect question has the verb translated into a past-tense habitual verb with or without context (e.g. he used to walk, he used to read, etc.) and that non-habitual translations are usually marked wrong. Can anyone clear this up?

March 30, 2015


"He used to know how to speak" should be right...I think. The standard English construction to translate an imperfect verb, however, is was + present participle (e.g. "was walking"), as opposed to the past habitual which uses used to + bare infinitive. In English, we wouldn't usually say "was knowing," so the simple past is an acceptable translation here.

March 30, 2015


I was just about to post something along these lines. The whole purpose of the imperfect tense is to indicate unfinished, continuous action in the past. There is no need for "context" here! While I can understand translating this particular sentence like you would if it were passe compose, "He used to know how to speak" should also be accepted since it's technically a more correct translation.

April 27, 2015


Where's the how? Drop down box does not make the connection.

March 10, 2014

  • 1754

Drop-down boxes may provide clues...or not. "Savoir + verb" = "to know how to + verb". http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionaries/french-english/savoir/70460 #6.

[Edit: Another interpretation of "savoir + infinitive" is "to be able to + verb". So, in that sense, "he used to be able to speak" is also a viable translation].

July 18, 2014


Hi n6zs. I looked at your link and still don't understand. Number 6. Could you try to explain it please?

October 7, 2014

  • 1754

Using any conjugation of savoir followed by an infinitive = to know how to (verb), e.g., savoir écrire = to know how to write, je sais écrire en français = I know how to write in French. Savoir traduire = to know how to translate, il sait traduire cette phrase = he knows how to translate this sentence. Sometimes Duo inserts the word "comment" for "how" but without any clarification of when or why it is to be used. Does that help?

October 7, 2014


That's great. Merci beaucoup!

October 7, 2014


so, is 'savoir' 'used to know'?

March 16, 2015


No. "Used to" is conveyed by the conjugation of a verb in the imperfect tense, not the verb itself. "Savoir" means "to know (how)" (the "how" is included in the meaning when a verb in the infinitive follows "savoir").

March 16, 2015


could you show me the conjugations for 'savoir' in imperfect tense and normal?

March 17, 2015




je sais/savais

tu sais/savais

il/elle/on/qui sait/savait

nous savons/savions

vous savez/saviez

ils/elles/qui savent/savaient

March 18, 2015


Genial, merci!

March 19, 2015


Il savait parler en français. Is this how you say he knew how to talk in french?

September 18, 2016


"He knew (how) to talk french. He spoke french" that's the sense.

September 18, 2016


"he knew how to SPEAK in french."

September 19, 2016


Ok, mbowen you are right.

September 19, 2016



September 19, 2016


Why is not "Il savait à parler"? When do we know when to include and not include "à"?

November 14, 2016


Just by definition. "to know how to + verb" = savoir + verbe.

March 6, 2017


Should not "Ils savaient parler" also be accepted?

April 22, 2015


No, that's imparfait third person plural. This sentence is in singular.

July 18, 2018


How would you say "he knew to talk"--which has a different meaning than "he knew HOW to talk"??? E.g. "There was a pause in the conversation and he knew to talk". Like, understanding that it is your turn to speak...

March 24, 2016


I understand that "Savoir + verb" = "to know how to + verb". How would I say "he knew to speak"? As in "I suddenly went silent so HE KNEW TO SPEAK"?

Is "il connait parler" sufficient? Or would I need to be more specific with "il savait qu'il devait parler"?

May 8, 2016


how do I say he knew to talk? It seems like he knew how to talk and he knew to talk would be written the same way??

July 21, 2016


How would you say "he knew to talk" in French?

August 28, 2016


I'm having trouble getting this to recognise my voice.

February 19, 2017


Why is, "He used to know how to speak" incorrect?

February 23, 2017


Why can't it be "he knew how to talk" (...to people, for example) ?

March 7, 2017


I'm not seeing an answer to the repeated question of how one says, "He knew to speak" (or talk). If 'Il savait parler' can't also mean this, I'd also like to know how one would say it, as I can also conceive of times when it would be used.

April 10, 2017


Yes there are about 3 answers to this question. Read above. I found them.

October 12, 2017


" he was able to talk " was accepted, it feels weird though.

July 25, 2017


he knew speak , why fals ?

August 19, 2017


That's not grammatically correct English. It's "He knew how to speak".

July 18, 2018


Now he doesn't know how to talk anymore

November 23, 2017


The answer includes words that are not available in the selection

June 14, 2018


"C'est mon perroquet qui savait parler." - It knew how to talk! IT is more logical than HE. Please comment. What do you think, n6zs?

August 30, 2018


"He would know how to talk" should also be accepted. For instance, "Barack Obama (He) would know how to talk in difficult situations." Still references habitual actions in the past which characterizes the imparfait.

November 21, 2018


"Would know" doesn't at all reference habitual ations in the past, but hypothetical actions.

November 21, 2018


Not sure why "He used to know how to speak" is not correct? Although perhaps clumsy English, I thought "he knew how to speak" would be "il a su parler"?? Maybe that's clumsy French?

February 23, 2019


He used to know how to speak. What didn't DL like about that - i used used to to render the imperfect.

April 8, 2019
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