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
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 7:37
  • btw. "stronger" equivalent with similar meaning would be "hay que joderse".
    – vartec
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 12:24
  • Not used in Chile Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 9:44

10 Answers 10


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
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:31
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    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? Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 18:07
  • I disagree with "no big deal." Maybe people sometimes try to put a brave face on their disappointment and frustration by saying "ni modo," but "no big deal," in my opinion, incorrectly implies that the person never felt disappointed or frustrated. Commented May 1, 2018 at 14:10

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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    Great answer, very effective examples. I think this successfully captures the fatalism of the expression. Commented May 1, 2018 at 14:08

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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    This would be a helpful answer for a different question. Commented May 1, 2018 at 3:16

In my country, Bolivia, besides "oh well", or "whatever", "ni modo" can also be translated as "nothing to do about it", "can't help it", or "anyway".


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

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

  • Interesting example you cooked up! I'd propose a slight edit to: Ni modo que te dén un millón de dólares. Also your translation seems a bit strong to me (are you nuts?). Instead, I'd propose: No way am I going to give you a million dollars. Commented May 1, 2018 at 14:06

"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.

  • But only in Mexico.
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 17:44
  • You could turn this into a helpful answer if you showed some examples of how it is used in context. Commented May 1, 2018 at 3:07

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


Ni modo se usa cuando no puedes hacer nada al respecto pero en el fondo tampoco quieres intentar un mejor esfuerzo en lograrlo, solo quieres dejarlo ahí.


Quería salir esta noche pero mis padres me castigaron. Ni modo, mejor jugaré video juegos.


Píensalo así:


  1. m. Aspecto que ante el observador presenta una acción o un ser.

Teóricamente, el dicho "ni modo" es corto para "ni siquiera hay modo". Ni siquiera vale la pena hacer algo.


Ya se agotaron los tacos. Ni modo. No tengo hambre.

  • I like your example, but the "no tengo hambre" at the end doesn't fit well. Better would be: No tenía much hambre. Or: Voy a tener que aguantarme. Or: Le pido una manzana a Doña Alicia en el camino. Commented May 1, 2018 at 3:10

Ni modo can also be translated as: "yeah, right... Like if..." For example, "Lo vi con mis propios ojos... Ni modo que lo hubieras visto con los ojos del vecino" I saw it with my own eyes... Yeah right, like if you could see it with your neighbor's eyes

  • 1
    Hi! Your answer is quite similar to some of the existing answers. I'd suggest you expand your answer (by clicking on edit), or put your text in the comment box instead. To expand your answer, consider providing an explanation, usage examples in your region, historical background, etc. If you don't have enough reputation yet to write a comment, be patient, that moment will come sooner than you might think.... Meanwhile, the best way to show support for an existing answer is to upvote it! For more information, see How to Answer.
    – mdewey
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 15:19

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