Almost everyone knows how to say “no” in Spanish… mainly because it’s the same word as in English: “no” is no. The pronunciation is a little bit different, though, when speaking Spanish. In Spanish, you pronounce the “o” as in the oa in the English “boat”. There, that’s not very difficult!
But, when speaking any language, there are many ways to express denial. In English you don’t just say “no” most of the time. You might say “no, thank you”, or “absolutely not!”.
Similarly, if you want to become more fluent in Spanish, you might want to develop some other options as well. That’s why we made this list with a few other ways of saying “no” in Spanish: to help you add that little spark!
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No in Spanish at a Glance
All the ways of saying No in Spanish
Below, we’ll go over all the ways of saying no in Spanish in more detail.
This is the standard way of saying “no” when offered something. It’s also the most polite option. No, gracias means “No, thank you” in Spanish, and it’s used in the same way as in English. Let’s see an example:
- ¿Quieres ir a la playa mañana? (“Do you want to go to the beach tomorrow?”).
- No, gracias. No me siento bien, debería descansar. (“No, thank you. I don’t feel well, I should rest”).
De ninguna manera
De ninguna manera is more emphatic than No, gracias. It means, almost literally, “No way!” or “Absolutely not!”.
You can use this phrase if you want to express that you’re absolutely against something, or to refuse a proposition that makes no sense to you.
A conversation using de ninguna manera could look like this:
- ¿Te gustaría escalar el Everest? (“Would you like to climb Mount Everest?”).
- ¡De ninguna manera! Me dan miedo las alturas (“No way. I’m scared of heights”).
Ni se te ocurra
Sometimes rather than simply saying no in Spanish, you want to emphatically tell someone to not even think about it.
Maybe someone is venturing into something dangerous, impossible or just wild. Maybe someone is making a very strange proposition. That’s when you want to use Ni se te ocurra, a very imposing way of saying “no” in Spanish. It could be translated as “Don’t even think about it”, and it’s used like this:
- Podríamos vender la casa… (“We could sell the house…”).
- ¡Ni se te ocurra! Mi abuelo construyó esta casa con sus propias manos (“Don’t even think about it! My grandfather built this house with his bare hands”).
You can also add a verb to the end of the phrase. For example “¡Ni se te occura volver a hacer eso!” is a common way of saying “Don’t even think about doing that again!”
No puede ser
This expression is used to express surprise or bewilderment. In life, we often hear things that border the impossible; unexpected, implausible things. That’s when you can use No puede ser, which means “It can’t be” or “No way”. Here you can see this phrase in an example:
- Martín se mudó a Hungría (“Martín moved to Hungary”).
- ¡No puede ser! Lo vi la semana pasada en el supermercado y no dijo nada (“No way! I saw him last week at the supermarket and he didn’t say a thing”).
There are other negative adverbs besides no. For example, you can say Nunca, which means “Never”. It looks like this:
- ¿Adoptarías una serpiente? (“Would you adopt a snake?”).
- Nunca. Les tengo terror. (“Never. I find them terrifying”).
Jamás is another very helpful negative adverb. It also means “Never”, which may seem redundant… And it is, in some way. But there is a subtle difference in inflection and frequency of use.
Jamás is not as common as nunca, and has a more definitive flair. There is a saying that goes Nunca digas nunca (literally, “Never say never”), but there is also an idiom that says Jamás de los jamases, which is the most emphatic way of saying “no” in Spanish —and a very theatrical one, something that looks like it’s been taken from a XIXth century melodrama.
Let’s see jamás in an example:
- ¿Viajarías al espacio? (“Would you travel to space?”).
- ¡Jamás! Ni siquiera me gustan los aviones. (“Never. I don’t even like planes).
Ni lo sueñes
This one is quite similar to Ni se te ocurra; but here, instead of talking about thoughts, we’re talking about dreams. Because that’s what Ni lo sueñes means: “Don’t even dream about it”. Some people translate it as the English expression “In your dreams!”, but that’s not entirely accurate.
You see: Ni lo sueñes is an imperative sentence, an order, so it works a little bit differently. When you say “In your dreams!”, you’re saying that something that the other person is saying can only happen in their dreams.
But when you say Ni lo sueñes, you’re commanding the other person to completely forget about the issue; they’re not even allowed to dream about it. Let’s see how you could use this expression in a conversation:
- ¿Y si nos vestimos como Barman y Robin para mi fiesta de disfraces? (“What if we dress as Batman and Robin for my costume party?”).
- Ni lo sueñes. Me vería ridículo. (“Don’t even dream about it! I would look ridiculous”).
Para nada is a very common negative phrase. It means something like “not at all”, and it’s a little bit more friendly than other phrases… depending on your tone, of course. This is how it looks in a conversation:
- ¿Estás pensando en renunciar? (“Are you thinking about quitting?”)
- Para nada. Estoy muy contento con mi trabajo. (“Not at all. I’m very happy with my job”).
As you can see, there are a lot of ways of saying “no” in Spanish. You can go for the polite No, gracias or for the imposing Ni se te ocurra; you can use a kind Para nada or the sharp Jamás de los jamases. That’s one of the great things of using a language: that is up to you! You can find your own style.
Now, thanks to this list, you have the resources to say no in many different ways and increase your Spanish fluency. With a little bit of practice, you’ll sound very convincing when you just say no!