Skip to content
Home » The meaning of しょうがいない in Japanese

The meaning of しょうがいない in Japanese

how to use しょうがいない

Jimmy Fallon Oops GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Find & Share on GIPHY

In life (日常生活) or in business (ビジネス) we encounter a variety of unexpected events (予期せぬ出来事) and most of the times these are unplanned events that we feel we cant help.

Of course as we are human and enjoy to plan before hand we try to predict a possible outcome of what will happen in our lives before an event happens.

In Japanese there are various common expressions (表現) that deal with the feeling of unhelpfulness that comes with the unexpected life event.

Interestingly enough the feeling of shock or feeling that the situation is out of our hands is a common sensation both in the west as in Japan. In English we tend to use expressions like ” I can’t help it” or ” I have no control over it”.

In this case we use these expressions when an event had already happened “既に起こってしまった”

Oh well in Japanese “しょうがいない

The 表現 -> expression “しょうがいない” is often used in everyday conversation, usually the meaning is “Well, I can’t help the situation”. It is used when some problem has already happened and the event cannot be changed. It is mainly used in situations where you feel unlucky, such as when you miss the bus or train.


(Ah, I missed the bus soon.) (あ〜、もう少しでバスに間に合ったのに。乗り遅れちゃったよ)

Oh well, we h\ve to just wait for the next one.(まぁ、しょうがいない。次のを待つしかないね)

Oh well. I guess we’ll have to buy something else instead.(しょうがないよ。他のものを買うしかないね。)

Oh Well GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It is what it is ” しょうがない

This is usually used when the problem is more serious than oh well, This is used in situations where you cant change the outcome even if you want to change it. Such as talking about the past or working in a workplace (like a hospital) where you are forced to work overtime.

Lets look at this example:

What? You don’t get paid overtime?(え?残業手当もらえないの?)
Nope. None of my coworkers do. It’s an old-school company. It is what it is.(もらってないよ。同僚は誰ももらっていない。保守的な会社だからね。しょうがないよ。)

Yeah, I found out she was cheating on me. I was pretty upset but it is what it is. I’m over it though. I’ve already moved on.(うん、彼女が浮気していたのが分かったんだ。結構傷ついたけど、どうしようもないよね。でも、もう立ち直って前に進んでいるよ。)

When you have no other options ” 仕方ない

The expression can be used when there is no other option available, for example, if you have no choice but to do something, such as using the cheap bus instead of the shinkansen due to lack of money, or attending a class at university that you do not want to take because it is a requirement in order for you to graduate.


Why are you taking the bus to Fukuoka? Why don’t you take the bullet train?(何でバスで福岡に行くの?新幹線乗ればいいじゃん)
I have no choice. I’m broke right now.(今、お金がないから仕方ないんだよ)

Why do you have to go golfing with your clients on the weekends?(なんで週末に顧客とゴルフしに行かないといけないの?)
It’s just part of the job. I have no choice.(仕事の一貫なので仕方ないんだ。)