Saber + infinitve vs. Saber a + infinitve

Saber + infinitve vs. Saber a + infinitve


Okay, time for some more over analyzing. I know that "saber + infinitve" means "to know how to do something, such as "sé esquiar". My question is this: why doesn't it follow the "rule" with "aprender" and "enseñar".

"Aprendo esquiar" = "I am learning the word "esquiar"/"Aprendo a esquiar" = "I am learning (how) to ski." "Enseño esquiar" = "I am teaching the word "esquiar"/"Enseño a esquiar" = "I am teaching (how) to ski."

In those cases, the DO is the knowledge being learned or taught, and the "a" is used because you don't want to say that you learned/taught the word, but rather you learned/taught how to do something.

I would think that "saber" would be used the same way, with "Sé esquiar" meaning "I know the word "esquiar" and "Sé a esquiar" meaning "I know how to ski", but this is not the case. Why is that? Am I simply missing something from Lazarus' answers to my other threads? (Haha, let's see if Lazarus will know that I am the one asking this question without looking at my name, like he did last time) tongue laugh

updated AGO 10, 2009
posted by Nick-Cortina
I didn't think your question was over analyzing! And it concisely stated a couple of things that I certainly would never have otherwise known. - Janice, AGO 10, 2009

1 Answer


Good question, Nick.

The problem, as usual, has to do with the meaning of the verb (and possibly the fact that not all things in a language can be explained with a simple rule). But let's try and see what happens anyway:

I said that "aprender esquiar" would mean "to learn (the verb) to ski". However, "saber esquiar" cannot be "to know (the verb) to ski", because you can't say "saber Alemania" either; here you have to use "Conocer Alemania" instead. The verb "saber" is normally followed by the name of something that is learnt by experiencing it or practising it, like "inglés" or "esquiar". Let's just say that "aprender" and "enseñar" do not include in their definition "how to do things", and every attempt to stick actions to them without "a" result in sentences where you only learn or teach the name of that action. "Saber" is all about things learnt by doing them, and not about just the names of things.

Before you quote me on every structure, let me tell you that I think that "aprender" and "enseñar" (and possibly a few more) are the exception in the Spanish system, so do not try to extend their usage to all verbs.

updated AGO 11, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
What first popped into my mind reading your response, Lazarus, is that other languages, too, have various words, whose different meanings are nonetheless all expressed by the English verb "to know". - Janice, AGO 10, 2009
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