One of the biggest problems we have as language learners is our lack of vocabulary; we always end up using the same words over and over because we don’t know any other ways to express what we want.
This often happens when we want to say no in Spanish. This one little negative word comes in handy a lot, but sometimes there are better ways to express ourselves in a certain context. If all you do is give a negative answer, “no”, you could come off as a little rude.
So that’s why in today’s article, we’re going to be improving your Spanish vocabulary and giving you a ton of extra tools to respond to something negatively, without offending the other person.
Direct, but neutral ways to say no in Spanish
This first section will give you all the different ways you can say no in Spanish. These ones are relatively neutral because what’s most important is the way that you say these.
With all of these, your tone and body language help your listener know if you’re simply responding to them or if there’s some animosity behind the content.
Of course, this is the most obvious part. The easiest way to say no in Spanish is just, “no”.
If you want to be a little more polite when someone asks you a question, you can always increase the pitch of your voice or elongate the last sound: “Nooo”.
Another way to make something more clear is by repeating the word and saying “No, no…” You can use this one often when someone asks if you want something. By repeating the words, your rejection doesn’t come off as impolite.
You could also throw in a “gracias”, depending on the situation.
¿Quieres un café? – No, no gracias: Would you like some coffee? – No, no thanks.
This one is typically used when you want to deny the truth of something. When you want to say, for example: “no, that’s not true”.
When using this expression, it’s common to make the last syllable a bit longer combined with a hand flail in the air, as if you were waving off the truth.
- ¿Te tratan bien en el trabajo, verdad? ¡Qué va! Mi jefe es un maleducado: “They treat you well in your job, right?” – As if, my boss is so rude
This one is quite a bit stronger than the last one. This is a common thing you would hear a mother or a teacher say to children. When the kids ask for something and the adult says absolutely not and they won’t even consider the request.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the kid is in trouble, but if the speaker says this with an angry tone, it could. For example,
- ¿Me compras el nuevo iPhone? – Ni hablar: Will you buy me the new iPhone? – Absolutely not.
Ni se te ocurra
Following the same line as the previous one, this is a more negative phrase to tell someone, “don’t even think about it”. For example,
No sé si quiero ir a la universidad… – ¡Ni se te ocurra eso! – I don’t know if I want to go to university… – Don’t even think about not going!
There are many expressions you can use to give a negative answer to something using “no”. Another example here could be ni lo pienses, which would translate as the same thing.
De eso nada
Another way to say no in Spanish is by using the expression, de eso nada. You can tap into this phrase when you want to reject or ignore something they’re telling you.
This is a much stronger negation and it’s often used by your parents, as well. For example:
– Es que todos mis amigos tienen la Playstation 5
– De eso nada
– But all my friends have a Playstation 5
– Don’t give me any of that.
No puede ser
This next negation sounds much nicer than the previous ones.
These negative Spanish words are used to express disbelief in something. Especially if something bad has happened in your life and you can’t believe it.
- Mario, te están robando el coche – ¡No puede ser! – Mario, they’re stealing your car – No way!
This expression is a good way to say no in Spanish when you want to say “not at all”. Here, you can use it to emphasize the negation. You can use this both in your own speech and as a response. Here are some examples:
- No me gusta para nada – I don’t like it at all.
- Está lloviendo, pero quieres ir a pasear? – No, para nada. – It’s raining, but do you want to go for a walk? – No, not at all.
De ninguna manera
This way to say no in Spanish translates to “in no way at all”. It can also be used as a synonym for the phrase “en absoluto”. This means that this expression is a pretty firm no.
- De ninguna manera vas a hablarme así: There’s no way you’re going to speak to me like that
Spanish speakers will use this to repeat a negation if they’ve already used some other negative word. Here, the intonation is key, though.
- ¿No te llevo a la estación de tren, entonces? – Que no, no te preocupes, está muy lejos: I don’t have to take you to the train station, then? – No, no, don’t worry about it, it’s really far away.
So when you want to insist on a negation, this is a polite way to do it. However, if you’re in an argument and you repeat “¡que no!”, it’s like saying “I said no!”. So it all just depends on the context.
Stronger ways to tell someone no in Spanish
This next round of ways to say no in Spanish are all very negative. All of them will use the imperative form of the verb, as well. But sometimes in life, the best way to do things is to just be a bit more direct with some negative words.
Dejar en paz
This is for when someone is annoying you or won’t leave you alone, you can tell them “déjame en paz” (leave me in peace).
Again, imagine someone is annoying you or repeatedly doing something that’s bothersome, you can say “¡para!”, which just means “stop”.
With this one specifically, you could use the word “para” in a nicer way, too, if you’re giving them a helpful warning.
This one is clearly a way to tell someone to “go away”, “vete”. It’s only one negative word, but it gets the point across immediately.
This last one is you’ll hear pretty often, especially with noisy kids in a house. “Cállate” is translated as “shut up”, so this is a very handy one to keep in your pocket.
Nicer ways to say no in Spanish
Now of course, we also want to practice some nicer ways to say no to something. Here are some of the best negative words and expressions to politely imply “no”:
This is the same as it is when you speak English. En serio translates to “seriously?”. So you can use this one both when you are expressing surprise or when you are annoyed and sigh at something.
No me digas (eso)
No me digas is another way to say “no way”, but when you add “eso” to the end, it’s a more literal translation.
You would say “don’t tell me that” when you hear bad news that you’re not particularly excited about.
Ever been asked a favor that you’re reluctant to accept? Well, here you go. If you say, “bueno…” and make the word really long, the listener will understand that you really don’t want to do what you’re asking.
Ay, no sé…
Need another way to get out of a favor? By saying “ay, no sé… es que…” followed by some sentences with an excuse, you’re making it clear that you really don’t want to do something, but you also don’t want to directly be very negative.
No hay más
In this article, we went over a ton of different negative words and ways for you to start saying “no”. Now you don’t have to be a “Yes Man” for everything in Spanish.
So go ahead and pick a few expressions you learned from today so you can master them!
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