It happens every now and then that my students mix up the words “vet”, “kan”, “känner” and “känner till”, so I was thinking we should take a closer look at these verbs. The best way to explain the differences between these verbs is with examples:
Anders vet när bussen går.
Anders knows when the bus leaves.
vet = have the information
Anders kan köra buss.
Anders knows how to drive a bus./Anders can drive a bus.
kan = knowing how to
Anders känner busschauffören.
Anders knows the bus driver.
känner = being friends, are acquainted
Anders känner till busschauffören.
“Känner till”, with emphasis on “till”, is a particle verb that means “know of” or ”have heard of”.
A better way to explain the difference between “känner” and “känner till” :
Anders känner till statsministern.
This means that Anders have heard of the Prime Minister. Maybe Anders know the Prime Minister’s name, or what political party he represents. Now, compare that to:
Anders känner statsministern.
This means that Anders and the Prime Minister are acquainted, or maybe friends.
“Känner till” is also the verb you should use when you want to say something like “have you heard of” or “are you familiar with”. For example, you should say “Känner du till Uppsala?”, instead of “Vet du Uppsala?”
Sara the Swedish Teacher