My question is as stated in the title. What is the difference? When should I use kennen and when wissen?

  • 1
    What did you do so far? What is the context of your question? What is your understanding of the two words? And why do you think their meaning is equal, similar of different?
    – IQV
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:50
  • A super simple way of keeping them straight: Wissen is for facts, and kennen is most often for people. I know a fact (wissen); I know that person (kennen). May 1, 2017 at 6:42

2 Answers 2


Semantically they're very close; syntactically, "wissen" is much more restricted. It can't take a noun phrase as its object (Ich weiß Deutsch), but normally takes a clause as an object:

Ich weiß, wie man Deutsch spricht
Ich weiß, was du meinst.

"Kennen", on the other hand, does take noun phrases as its object:

Ich kenne diesen Film.
Ich kenne viele Leute.

You cannot, however, use it to express skills and abilities, even if these entail knowledge of a subject matter. Skills are typically expressed through the verb "können":

Ich kenne kann Deutsch.
Ich kenne kann lesen.

  • Ich weiß ein Geheimnis. wissen can take noun phrases.
    – tofro
    Apr 19, 2017 at 15:11
  • As I wrote: wissen normally takes a clause, not a noun phrase. While your example does work, I would still prefer to use "kennen" here (Ein Geheimnis kennen). If I wanted to use "wissen", I would use a prepositional phrase, not a direct noun phrase: "Von einem Geheimnis wissen." or "Um ein Geheimnis wissen." This may, however, just be an individual preference
    – ParaDice
    Apr 19, 2017 at 15:31

When you are using assertive sentence make use of kennen,

When the same assertive sentence is asked and you expect more detail about it use wissen

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