仕方がない (shikata ga nai) Meaning in Japanese

When you study Japanese, you pick up a lot of cool phrases. One of those cool phrases is 仕方がない (shikata ga nai), meaning “it’s no use” or “it can’t be helped.”

I’m sure you’ve said something like this in English before. I know I’ve have this phrase used on me in the past. Like this one time when I went to Sonic (the fast food joint) and my buddy asked for a Route 44 Dr. Pepper with no ice and he was told that it costs $0.10 to have a drink with no ice.

Like, for real? Are you kidding me right now?

Hey man, 仕方がない!

Anytime you find yourself frustrated by a situation where you feel like you have no control and you’re being dealt an injustice, you’ve got one choice: get used to it.

No doubt you’ll hear it a lot while visiting or working in Japan.

There’s even a text emoji that perfectly illustrates this feeling: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Other Ways to Say it

This phrase is kind of like the French phrase “c’est la vie.” So if you’ve been speaking French during times where you had to suffer without an ability to change the situation, make sure you throw in a little Japanese too with your new phrase is 仕方がない.

Also, there is a slight variation to the pronunciation of the standard Japanese version that you might hear sometimes: しょうがない (Shou ga nai).

And a good equivalent English phrase for it would be “It is what it is.” I saw this one written on the white board of an accountant at my job. Poor lady, I feel bad for her having to see that kind of reminder each day. You know, because of the problems at work :/


  • 戦車があるから、勝つよ。
    sensha ga arukara, katsu yo.
    I have a tank, so I win!


  • ああっ仕方がない!
    aa, shikata ga nai!
    Aah! It can’t be helped!

Now it’s your turn!

Got any 仕方がない situations in your life right now? Do you think it’s a pretty good phrase for everyday life? Let me know your thoughts with a common below!


  • Daniel

    Interesting. I find myself saying stuff like that all the time English. Like, “what can you do, right?” Usually when I’m hanging with a friend and they start sharing their troubles with me.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, this phrase isn’t in any of the phrase books that I own, but you heard it used like all the time in Japan. What’s up with that? I guess it’s just one of those colloquial things that you use when you’re pretty fluent, but if you’re only planning on going for a visit, then you need to know more functional vocabulary.

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