Learn Japanese Vocabulary Quickly: How Are “Shikata Nai” and “Shou ga Nai” Used In A Conversation?

If you have ever seen a Japanese anime or movie or have been to Japan, you have undoubtedly heard one of these phrases “shou ga nai naa!” or “shikata nai“. If you want to learn Japanese properly, let’s have a look at what these famous expressions mean.

Speaking Japanese Phrases The Right Way

In English, both “shikata nai – しかたない” and “shou ga nai – しょうがない” mean “can’t be helped” or “have no choice but to …”. Japanese people daily use these phrases in generally negative situations that have no alternative but to get over it.

The usage of these two forms is pretty much the same, so they’re interchangeable in a conversation. The best way to learn Japanese properly is to understand its nuances and it’s one of the challenges of learning Japanese.

Certainly, fast-speaking Japanese is where the true difficulty begins, but there is no need to rush. For now, let’s look at the examples below of what speaking Japanese looks like:

  1. 明日テストの勉強を手伝ってくれませんか?お願いします!

Ashita tesuto no benkyou o tetsudatte kuremasenka? Onegaishimasu!

“Can you help me study for the test, please?”


Mou, shou ga nai na. Konkai dake dayo.

“Geez, can’t be helped, fine. Just this time.”

2. まま、アイスクリームを食べたい!買ってくれる?

Mama, aisukuri-mu o tabetai! kattekureru?

“Mom, I want to eat ice cream. Would you like to buy me one?”


shou ga nai na!

“Oww, sure! / I have no choice.”

However, Shikata nai – しかたない is the shortened casual conversation form of Shikata ga arimasen – しかたがありません. As you can see, the particle ga is omitted, and arimasen is shortened to become just nai.

So, on formal occasions, Shikata ga nai’ or the more formal Shikata ga arimasen is more suitable than shou ga nai, the top casual one.

Learn Japanese Online: A Descending Level of Politeness:

Shikata ga gozaimasen  


Shikata ga arimasen 


Shikata ga nai 


Shikata nai  ・ しかたない

Shou ga nai ・ しょうがない

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