From searching the web via Google, I'm finding that "conocer" can be used to express that one is meeting someone else for the first time.

Does this mean that two or more persons are meeting for the first time ever? Or does it mean for the first time within a particular day?

No conoció a su madre.

He didn't meet his mother.

The above Spanish is from a lesson I'm taking at Memrise.com. This confuses me because usually an individual is NOT meeting his mother for the first time ever. Why is it appropriate to use "conocer" in this context?

UPDATE: Perhaps I've made a faulty assumption here. In the example that I used, I assumed that 'his' is referring to the mother of 'he'. Perhaps 'his' is referring to someone else's mother. For example:

He (Roberto) did not meet his (Brian's) mother.

In this case, this meeting that did not occur would have been a first-time meeting.

I hope that I'm making sense here! :)

  • Which word would you suggest instead of conocer?
    – Schwale
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:13
  • @Ustanak: Spanishdict.com reveals that "encontrarse con" also means "to meet". Further research reveals it specifically means to meet someone that you already know, not meeting someone for the first time. It seems to me that "encontrarse con" is more appropriate when one wants to express that he or she is meeting his or her mother. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:19
  • 1
    Not quite. Here's a far-fetched case: you have a friend X who has another friend Y. You know X because you knew him/her some time before you never spoke to Y. (So there's no first time with that person. Eye contact doesn't mean you actually know Y.) One day when walking you met Y (but you never spoke with him/her nor shared something together before) and you tell X the following: me encontré con Y, salimos a beber. This doesn't imply that you met Y before, because it's your first time sharing with Y.
    – Schwale
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:56
  • 1
    "El no conoció a su madre" could mean either he never met his mother (perhaps he was adopted, or otherwise separated from her at an early age), or, as your update indicates, it could mean that the "su" is referring to someone else's mother. The fuller context would be necessary to disambiguate.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:29
  • 1
    @aparente por favor, no uses [meaning-in-context]. Se debatió largo y tendido en Meta y se decidió no usar, así que tenlo en cuenta. No es agradable tener que estar vigilante, pero menos aún lo es ver que lo que debatimos entre todos no se adopta. Usamos Meta para ir estableciendo reglas: seamos consecuentes con ellas.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 7:05

4 Answers 4


Conocer, in Spanish, has multiple meanings, just like know has multiple meanings in English.

RAE lists 10 usages of conocer. The most relevant ones to your question are:

  • tr. Entender, advertir, saber, echar de ver a alguien o algo.
  • tr. Tener trato y comunicación con alguien. U. t. c. prnl.

Roughly translated:

  • transitive verb. Understand, notice, know, or to see someone or something.
  • transitive verb. Engage in dealings and communication with someone.

So the explanation is simply that the word has multiple meanings. It can mean to know someone, and it can mean to meet someone.

Some examples of how to use conocer, and how to talk about meeting and meeting up:

  • ¿Conoces a Maria? / Do you know Maria?
  • ¿Conociste a Maria? / Did you meet Maria (for the first time)?
  • Ayer conocí a tu jefe. / Yesterday I met your boss (for the first time).
  • Vamos a juntarnos en el café. / We will met up in the café.
  • Encontré a Maria en el supermercado. / I met/ran into/found Maria in the supermarket.
  • ¿Conoces Ámsterdam? / Do you know/are you familiar with/have you been to Amsterdam?
  • Thanks @Flimzy. I guess I'm hoping for a fluent speaker to reply how he or she uses 'conocer' in normal everyday speech (in the context of meeting people). Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 20:54
  • I've added some examples. Let me know if further clarification is useful.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:18
  • Excellent! Thank you, things are so much clearer now. Also, I've updated my original post after having an epiphany. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:26

As a native Spanish speaker, the use of this verb often depends of context.

We can use conocer when the person introduced already knows the other.

— Hola, este es Paul.
— Hola, ya lo conozco.

When you want to meet someone or more people for the first time:

— Quiero conocer más amigos.

When talking about knowledge:

Conocer estas materias, ampliará tu mente.

However, we don't use conocer when we casually meet people:

— Ayer me encontré a Paul en el mercado. ( Ayer conocí a Paul en el Mercado.)

  • Thanks. You've further confirmed that 'conocer' is not used when meeting someone after the first time. I see that 'encontrar' can be used for that. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:37
  • 2
    @RockAnthonyJohnson We can also use me topé con alguien.
    – Schwale
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:38

"Conocer," in this context, is to meet for the first time ever.

A rough English translation is, "get to know."

Before you "conocer" this person, you don't know him/her at all.


You answered your own question in your update. That is exactly right. The "he" and the "his" refer, most likely, to two different people. The authors of your textbook should have constructed a better sentence to avoid confusion.

Also, in the past tense, negative, it would be unlikely to use this verb in such a sentence. It would be more likely to find

Roberto no conocía a la mamá de Brian. (Roberto wasn't acquainted with Brian's mother.)


Roberto no se encontró con la mamá de Brian. (Roberto didn't meet up with Brian's mother.)

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