I know a bit about the distinction between savoir and connaître. The former means to have learned (about) something, whereas the latter means to know something from experience.

But if I wanted to say, "I know a little French," would I use savoir or connaître, and how would the meaning of the sentence change depending on which word I choose?

I know a little French.
Je sais un peu de français.
Je connais un peu de français.

I expect that one word is more idiomatic than the other in this expression, assuming that "I know a little (of this language) is a common expression in French, as it is in English.

  • 2
    Could we say this answer of French Language answers your question?
    – None
    Oct 2, 2017 at 6:53
  • @Laure Peut-être. The one relevant example I could find was je sais le latin, but it's not entirely analogous since Latin is not typically a spoken language. There is another example in the accepted answer which leads me to think connaître could be used, and that example is, Je connais la physique. Hence the ambiguity.
    – ktm5124
    Oct 2, 2017 at 6:58
  • Note that Je connais un peu de Français (uppercase F) means I know some French people.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 2, 2017 at 8:09
  • Je connais le Français un peu. [I know the Frenchman a little]. Je connais le français un peu. [I know a little French]. Savoir can't be used here....Je sais qu'il est français: I know he is French, in the sense of to have knowledge of something.
    – Lambie
    Jan 4, 2018 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


If we stick to your proposed answers:

Je connais un peu de français.

is the best.

But I feel the most idiomatic would be:

Je parle un peu (le/de) français.


Je sais parler un peu (le/de) français. / Je sais un peu parler français.

Note that connaitre cannot be followed by another verb, so no hesitation in this last case.

As noted is this other answer je sais le français would have been used until the early 20th century but saying it nowadays would really sound outdated.

  • Merci encore, Laure.
    – ktm5124
    Oct 2, 2017 at 19:08
  • Si on sait lire le français, mais on ne sait pas le parler du tout, quelle est l'expression à utiliser ? Il me semble que « je parle un peu de français » ne soit pas vraie en ce cas…
    – Evgeniy
    Dec 28, 2017 at 10:03
  • @Evgeniy Je pense qu'il suffit de dire "Je sais lire le français" dans ce cas.
    – Louhike
    Jan 2, 2018 at 11:23
  • @Louhike Merci beaucoup!
    – Evgeniy
    Jan 3, 2018 at 10:21

If you discuss around something in French, among people who can't read or understand :

Je connais un peu le français.

Using the verb "savoir" needs another verb after:

Je sais parler le français.
Je sais lire le francais.

Using the verb "connaitre" is more around knowledge, so to know about French is "big" and can touch the food, habits and not only language... It can be something like this with "connaitre":

Je connais un peu la grammaire française, mais je ne sais pas l'écrire correctement...

I know some about french grammar but can’t write it correctly

Je connais bien la cuisine française (i know well french cooking)

Hope it helps some.

That link https://french.stackexchange.com/a/59/358 should help you too.

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