What Does Shouganai Mean in Japanese? Shi (し) – Shikata ga nai, Shouganai

What do the Japanese Words “Shouganai” and “Shikata ga nai” Mean in English?

Shikata ga nai, shouganai
There’s nothing you can do. / It can’t be helped.



Expressing Ideas…
In Casual Conversations…

To Express Ideas

In any language, there are definitely some popular phrases that can help to facilitate communication and express ideas clearly.  If you are learning Japanese or even any other language, you may experience trouble finding the right word to express yourself. You may experience yourself stringing together clunky words that just doesn’t flow properly.
In our A-I-U-E-O blog series, we want to introduce Japanese phrases that you can use naturally in everyday conversation. This week, we will be introducing a phrase that starts with “Shi” (し)


Shikata ga nai, shouganai


These phrases can be used when people are in need to be consoled or commiserated with.  It is similar in English to – there is nothing we could do – or there is nothing that  you could do.


Using Shouganai/Shikata ga nai In Casual Japanese Conversation

Between College Students

Konoaida uketa kaisha no mensetsu, dōdatta.

How did you do at the interview?

I failed.
Sō ka, zan’nendatta ne. Ma, demo kyōsō-ritsu takakattashi, shōganai yo.
Oh really? That’s a shame. Anyway, you shouldn’t feel bad – It was very competitive so there was nothing you could do.
Un,-sōna ndakedo. Demo yappari, ano kaisha, ikitakatta nā
Yeah, I know its unrealistic, but I still really wanted to get a job there.

Example: Using Japanese At the Front of a Hotel

Konkai wa, go kibō no heya o go yōi dekizu, mōshiwake arimasendeshita.
We’re very sorry about this – but that type of room is not currently available.
客: まあ、ちょうどGWの時期だったし、こちらも予約するのが遅かったし。だから今回は仕方ないです。また次来るとき、お願いします。
Mā, chōdo GW no jikidattashi, kochira mo yoyaku suru no ga osokattashi. Dakara konkai wa shikatanaidesu. Mata tsugi kuru toki, onegaishimasu.
Well, it is Golden Week and we are trying to book last minute.  So this time it cannot be helped.

When using these examples in real conversation it’s important to be careful.  There are certain situations where it is inappropriate to use idioms and it may offend the person listening to you.  For example – if your boss is giving you negative feedback about a mistake you have made – you should not tell them that it cannot be helped as it gives the impression that you are making excuses for yourself and you do not care about your result. Regardless – I think it is better to use shi kata ga nai as shou ga nai may be less offensive to someone who does not enjoy idioms.
Also, travelling around Japan can be slightly challenging for a non-native speaker. Why not try learning a few phrases to help you get around in Japan!

Example: Using Shoganai Between Friends

Nodo, itai.
I have a sore throat.
E, daijōbu? Kaze?
Oh, are you okay? Do you have a cold?
Sakkā no ōen de sakebi sugita.
I screamed too much at the soccer match.
E, mata? ! Honto, shōganai ne.
Why did you do that?  Of course, you have a sore throat now!
This is a slight way of teasing or joking with a person that you are close with.  This means that the person you are using it with and how close you are to them will determine if you can use this expression or not.  Advanced expressions like these are ones that you will become more comfortable with as time goes on.

If you are interested in studying Japanese, find out more about our school by filling out the form below.

Test your Japanese level!

Do a self-test to see which course fits you.

Check your level