Nikt nie zna powodu.

Can someone please explain why ‘zna’ is correct here, rather than ‘wie’? I understand that wiedzieć is usually used in the context of having knowledge of a subject, however, znać is normally used in the context of being ‘familiar’ with someone or something e.g. Nie znam go or Znam tę książkę. What has confused me here is that powod(u) suggests knowledge of a subject (the reason). If someone could clarify this, I’d be grateful. Thanks.

You’re mostly right about the distinction between having knowledge and being familiar with something. There are, however, some other factors at play here as well.

Most of all, “znać” is a transitive verb, while “wiedzieć” is not. This means that the object of the sentence can follow “znać” directly, but if you were to use “wiedzieć” in its place, you’d generally need a preposition to connect the verb and the object. So if you were dead set on using “wiedzieć” here, you’d have to say “Nikt nie wie o powodzie”—which sounds a bit weird in Polish, but is more or less equivalent to “Nobody knows about the reson”. One exception is the phrase “wiem to”—“I know this”—which technically doesn’t need a preposition, but “wiem o tym” would still be considered a more elegant way to phrase it.

I can think of many contexts where “znać” could be used to talk about knowledge of a subject, or “wiedzieć” to talk about familiarity. Some examples:

Znam angielski.
Znam ten wiersz na pamięć. (“I know this poem by heart”)
Wiem o jego chorobie. (“I know about his sickness.”)
Wiem, czego szukasz. (“I know what you’re looking for.”)

I guess you could argue about some of them, it’s really not that easy to draw a line between the two meanings.

The last example tells us about yet another context in which you don’t need a preposition after “wiedzieć”: compound sentences. In fact, if you want to form a compound sentence like this, you can only use “wiedzieć”, and not “znać”. Thus, you’ll often hear “wiem, że…” (I know that…), “wiem, co…” (I know what…) or “wiem, gdzie… (I know where…) but you will never ever hear “znam, że…”, “znam, co…” or “znam, gdzie…”.

I know, it’s complicated. I believe similar distinctions exist in some other European languages, including German. Probably the best way to get your head around it would be to look at as many use examples as possible and then try to quiz yourself. It might take a lot of work, but eventually you’ll get it just fine.

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Thanks for such a comprehensive reply, Adam. The text book I’m working only on gave a basic explanation of wiedzieć/umieć/znać :-

  • Wiedzieć … wiem, że / gdzie / kiedy / ile / jak / itd.
  • Umieć + bezokolicznik
  • Znać + biernik
    Since working on Clozemaster, just based on experience, I’ve been using the general rule that wiedzieć is usually used to express knowledge of a subject and znać to express familiarity with someone/something. Clearly it is more complicated than that! However, I understand it a lot better, now I know that znać is transitive but wiedzieć is not, therefore wiedzieć normally needs a preposition to connect the verb and object, unless using it in a compound sentence. Thanks!

I’m still not satisfied with my reply, so I’ve done some more digging and found some more potential explanations in Polish forums (turns out many Poles have problems explaining this to foreigners, even to speakers of other Slavic languages). I’ve pieced it all together and checked some dictionary definitions, here’s what I’ve got:

wiedzieć: to be aware of something, to have the information about some occurrence or the existence of something, to realize something.
znać: to be acquainted with something, to have knowledge of something or expertise in something, to have a good notion of something.

I think it would be fair to say that in order to say znam X, you have to spend some time getting acquainted with it—it’s a whole process. To say wiem (o) X, you don’t need that kind of time investment—it’s enough that someone tells you about it or, say, you read about it in a newspaper.

And here’s one more short video for you to watch, hope it helps :slight_smile: Polish lesson with Dorota: umieć / wiedzieć / znać - YouTube

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Thanks Adam. Actually, I really liked the reply you gave me, even if you weren’t satisfied with it yourself !!! I enjoyed watching the video. The lady in the video, Dorota, speaks really clearly and slowly for learners, I understood nearly everything she was said, without the subtitles :slight_smile: Looks like all these hours on Clozemaster are paying off !!!

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