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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
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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 mas." > "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
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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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