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The phrase ni modo is used in many varieties of Spanish to mean many different things. What are its possible meanings? Which meaning is most common (i.e. which meaning would you assume if ni modo was said alone, without any context)?

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I think the most common idiomatic translation to English would probably be "Oh well," although the literal translation is quite different. Another possible idiomatic translations might be "What's a guy/gal to do?" – Flimzy Jan 10 '12 at 7:37
btw. "stronger" equivalent with similar meaning would be "hay que joderse". – vartec Jan 10 '12 at 12:24
@Flimzy that should have been an answer :) – César Jan 10 '12 at 21:36
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In Mexico ni modo means "it doesn't matter", "whatever", "not important", "oh well", "no big deal" and quite a few more things, just depends on the context.

"Si quieres manejar, pues maneja, si no, pues ni modo" > "If you want to drive, drive but if not, whatever, no big deal"

"¡Se cayó el huevo! Ni modo, hay más." > "The egg fell. Oh well/doesn't matter, there are more."

"Mi cel no funciona aquí, ni modo, ¡el tuyo sí!" > "My cell doesn't work here, no big deal, yours does."

"Creo que ella está enamorada de ti." "Ni modo." > "I think she's in love with you." "Whatever."

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The expression is not used at all in Argentina. Though we mostly grasp it, as 'foreign spanish' :-) – leonbloy Jan 11 '12 at 15:31
I notice the characters in El Chavo del 8 often use "ni modo" in a sarcastic way. For example Don Ramón tells La Chilindrina to come inside ("Chilindrina métete para adentro") and she answers "Ni modo que me meta para afuera". Is that common usage? Is it just jargon from the 70s? Something Chespirito made up? – Santiago Tórtora Jul 8 at 18:07

Here is my explanation of "ni modo":

  1. Denotes that you can't do anything about it and you have to accept it. This is like "Oh well". You can add "ya" before "ni modo" but it is optional.

    Llegué tarde a la estación por eso perdí el autobus. Ni modo.

    Si hubiera tenido dinero hubiera podido ir con ellos al viaje. Ya ni modo.

  2. Denotes that what is after the "ni modo que" cannot be done even if you want to.

    No tengo computadora. Ni modo que vaya a comprar una computadora ahorita a media noche.

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In Spain it is not used Ni modo.

Some good uses would be No importa, No pasa nada, Da igual, Es lo mismo and Lo mismo da.

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Ni modo also means something like "are you nuts?":

Ni modo que quieras que te de un millón de dólares. Are you nuts? how am I going to give you a million dollars?

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"Ni modo" is a colloquialism in Latin America.

It can mean "No way" or "Absolutely not". Also, "Oh well", "whatever"... It is used in context.

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But only in Mexico. – Rodrigo Jul 8 at 17:44

It means that you have to resign yourself and do things that way or do nothing.

No tengo dinero, ni modo no saldré con mis amigos.

I have no money, I'll resign myself, I'm not going out with my friends

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