Know the verb 'know'! - Podcast Episode 35

Welcome to Episode 35 of The English Sessions. Know the verb ‘know’! I am your host and English teacher, Mike Butler. These podcasts can help you improve your English! Together, we will talk about grammar… pronunciation… structure... and have some fun too. Remember to visit my website, to contact me for private lessons, and for more content.

You can also read the transcript of this audio on the website, as you listen to this episode.

We all know the verb ‘know’. It’s a very common verb in English. But let’s make sure we know how to use it properly in English.

Let’s start with the most basic definition. You know this definition. The most basic definition of the verb ’know’ is ‘to be aware of something’. I know this information. I am aware of this information. I know it. I know this.

I am using a direct object with the verb here: subject + verb + object. I know this. I know this information already, Mike! This is boring!!! Okay okay, then let’s move on.

Did you know that the verb ‘know’ is an irregular verb?

Let’s start with the simple past tense of know. KNEW. Example: at one point in my life, many years ago, I knew every word to the theme song to the television show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, starring Will Smith. I knew the words to the song. Now, I don’t remember.

KNEW = Past tense.

Now, the past participle of ‘know’ is ‘known’. So, as you know, we use the past participle with the perfect tenses, the passive voice, and often, to form the adjective.

PRESENT PERFECT: I have known Bill for 20 years. It is common to use the verb ‘know’ to talk about how you have a relationship with someone. I have known Bill for 20 years. I became aware of Bill 20 years ago, and I have had a relationship with him now for 20 years. He has been a part of my life for 20 years. This is a very common use for the verb ‘know’, talking about relationships.

ADJECTIVE: As an adjective, “Little Women is a very well known book written by Louisa May Alcott.” Little Women is well known. That’s right, we will often see the past participle form of a verb used as the adjective. If you want to learn more about why that is, write in to the podcast and we’ll talk about it.

Okay, so now we know the basics. The verb is irregular. It is ‘know’/‘knew’/‘known’. I know it. I knew it. I have known it. Common uses have a direct object. I know Bill. I know the information.

So, Mike, are there ways to use the verb ‘intransitively’? Remember, that means when you don’t need an object directly after the verb. The answer is ‘yes’!

Sometimes you see the prepositions ‘about’, or ‘of’ after the verb ‘know’. I know of it. I knew about it. Let’s talk about those.

I’ll give some examples. “Yes, I know about that movie, but I haven’t watched it yet. People keep saying that it’s really good”. You see, in this example, the person has knowledge of the movie, but has not watched the movie. So remember, ‘know of’, ‘know about’, it is similar to saying that you ‘have knowledge of’ something. You may have knowledge of something, like a movie, or something that happened in history, for example, but you still may know very little about it because you haven’t watched the movie, or read that history lesson, or history book.

I know of her, but I’ve never met her. I have never talked to her, but I know of her. There’s a big difference, isn’t there?

There’s a big difference between: “I know Mary” and “I know of Mary”. If you “know Mary” then maybe you are best friends with Mary. “Ahh, I know Mary very well, she’s my best friend”. If you only ‘know of’ Mary, then you probably have never talked to her before.

After the break, we’ll talk about when you should NOT use the verb ‘know’ in English. The information after the break will be most helpful to native Spanish speakers, or speakers of other Romance languages like Portuguese. It will also be for more advanced learners.


If you are a fan of the podcast, then you know that I am learning Spanish. The verb ‘know’ in English often translates to two verbs in Spanish, ‘saber’ and ‘conocer’. It’s still sometimes hard for me to remember which one to use. If you want to help, then write in to the podcast. I’d love to have a language exchange, or ‘intercambio’.

But this is not a Spanish lesson, it is an English lesson. There can be similar confusion for Spanish learners who are translating the verb ‘conocer’. Perhaps this is similar in your language. I know it is similar in Portuguese. Let’s look at some examples.

Conozco a tu amigo del colegio. - I know your friend from school - notice it can be intransitive in Spanish but should be transitive in English. I know your friend from school. That’s good, that’s right. I use the great site for my translations. “I know of your friend from school” has a different meaning, remember? I know of them, but I don’t actually know them. I have just learned some information about them.

Oooh, and I like this example too, “Conozco una buena manera de pelar papas.” = I know a good way to peel potatoes. This is another good example of when ‘conocer’ translates to ‘know’.

The two examples of my translations are using the verb ‘know’ in the ways that we discussed in the first half of the episode. I know a friend. I know a person. I know this information. I know the information about peeling potatoes.

But did you also know that the verb ‘conocer’ can translate to: to meet; to be familiar with; to get to know; to visit; to go to; to see; to discover; to recognize; to identify; to feel; to speak; to try; to know about; to know oneself; to know each other; to get to know each other; to hear of; to explore

I could spend all day giving examples of translations from conocer that do NOT translate to the verb ‘know’ in English, but today I will just focus on a couple important ones.

I have a lot of students in Brazil, and, as I said, this often mistranslated verb is very similar in Portuguese as well. I will sometimes have students who ask me, “Mike, do you know Brazil?”

Can you imagine what I say to them in response? I often say, “Well yes, of course I know Brazil… I know of Brazil… I know a lot about Brazil because I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to speak to so many Brazilians because of my job. I’ve learned a lot about Brazil”.

I am being kind of a jerk at this moment, because I know what they are trying to ask me. They want to know if I’ve ever visited Brazil. They want to ask me, “Mike, have you ever been to Brazil?” …in other words, have you ever taken a trip to Brazil, in order to know more about the people, the food, the culture”…. and I can understand the confusion… even in translators, if I put in the words, “Conoces Brazil?” it will translate it to “Do you know Brazil?” but that’s not a clear translation.

Let’s look at some examples. I’m going to do an internet search for the words “Do you know Brazil”? (off transcript, sorry!)

Let’s look at a few other examples, me encantarĂ­a conocer China  = I would love to go to/visit China.

You see, it can get confusing in translation because remember, TO KNOW in English is to have knowledge or information about something, including places. I know about China, but I’ve never been to China. I’ve never visited China, but of course I know of China, I know information about China.

Now, despite everything I just explained to you, I will say that you CAN know a place. This would mean that you’ve had a lot of experiences there and have obtained a lot of knowledge.

Let me think of an example… let’s say a tourist gets into a taxi in Mexico City and asks the taxi driver to take them to the Frida Khalo museum. The tourist starts arguing with the taxi driver and says, “Hey, what are you doing? Take a left here… don’t go straight, it’s easier to take a left”.

The taxi driver might say, “Hey, who is the local here? I know Mexico City, alright? I know Mexico City like the back of my hand!”.

The taxi driver is saying that they have a lot of knowledge of the city. They are going to know the best route to take, because they are very knowledgable about the city.

So what I’m saying is, be careful when using this verb, remember that we know information, we know people, we know about/of something when we a familiar with something but perhaps don’t actually know it too well. Take the time to look at all the different translations from your language, especially if your native language is one of the Romance languages, like Spanish and Portuguese. There’s a lot more we could discuss about this topic, so feel free to write in to the podcast, or leave a message on the website.

Any questions? Write to me at . Leave a message for me on the website, and I will play it on the podcast. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast so you won’t miss an episode. Visit for more content. Please rate and review The English Sessions on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Find us on social media. Twitter @theEsessions; Instagram @englishsessionswithmike; Search for The English Sessions on Facebook. Until next time, this is Mike signing off.  


  1. Hello teacher Mike! I am Nicky, from Argentina. I just wanted to say thank you for this great lesson! I can now better understand how to use the verb "know". I am gonna try to make some example sentences to put everything you taught us into practice!

    meeting someone: You look very familiar. Do I know you?
    visit: Do you know Mexico? It is famous for its tacos and nachos.
    I don't know about you bit I think that man looks shady, don't you think?
    Do you know Marie? Yeah, we got to know each other last week at the party!

    Thanks again Mike for your big help in English
    I really appreciate it!

    1. Thanks, Nicole! These are great examples. Yes, we can 'know' about Mexico, including the fact that they have delicious tacos there. That is one thing that I know about Mexico. I have also been to Mexico several times. I love getting to know the people of Mexico very much, as well.


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