How To Say 'Never' in Spanish

'Nunca' and 'Jamás' Are Usually Interchangeable

Gran Vía of Madrid
Nunca olvidaré Madrid. (I'll never forget Madrid.). Felipe Gabaldón/Creative Commons.

Spanish has two common adverbs that mean "never" and they can almost always be used interchangeably, the words nunca and jamás.

Most Common Way to Say Never

The most common way to say "never" is nunca. It comes from the Old Spanish word nunqua, which entered the language from the Latin word for "never," numquam.

Spanish SentenceEnglish Translation
Nunca olvidaré Madrid.I'll never forget Madrid.
Brittany y Pablo nunca fueron amigos.Brittany and Pablo were never friends.
El presidente no ha hablado nunca a favor de imponer sanciones.The president never has spoken in favor of imposing sanctions.
Nunca quiero que llegue ese día.I never want that day to come.

Slightly More Emphatic Way to Say Never

Less used, and perhaps a bit stronger than nunca, is the word jamás, also meaning "never." Jamás could be substituted in place of the word nunca. 

Spanish SentenceEnglish Translation
Es el mejor libro jamás escrito.It's the best book never written.
Jamás pienso en la muerte.I never think about death.
Jamás imaginé que llegaría este día.I never imagined this day would come.
Quiero dormirme y no despertarme jamás.I want to fall asleep and never wake up.

When Never to Use Jamás

One of the very few times you cannot substitute jamás for nunca is in the phrases más que nunca and menos que nunca, which mean "more than ever" or "less than ever." For example, Mi hermano gasta más que nunca, which means, "My brother is spending more than ever."

Double Negative Never

Spanish is very comfortable with double negative sentence construction, unlike English, which shuns it.

When nunca or jamás follows the verb that it modifies, use a double negative sentence construction.

Spanish SentenceEnglish Translation
No he visto a nadie jamás tan malo.I have never seen anyone so bad.
No discutas nunca con un imbécil, te hará descender a su nivel.Never discuss anything with an idiot; he will bring you down to his level.

Never Ever in Spanish

Also, nunca and jamás can be used together to reinforce their meanings, or strengthen the feeling, much like "never, never" or "never ever" in English. 

Spanish SentenceEnglish Translation
Nunca jamás vayamos a aceptar una dictadura militar. Never, ever are we going to accept a military dictatorship.
Nunca jamás hablé con nadie de esto.Never, no, never have I spoken with anybody about this.

Colloquial Expressions That Mean Never

There are several figurative expressions that mean never that do not use the words nunca or jamás. 

Spanish PhraseEnglish Translation
¿en serio?; ¡no puede ser!Never! or You never did!
no llegué a irI never went
no contaba con volverlo a verI never expected to see him again
no importa; no te preocupesNevermind
ni uno siquieraNever a one
¡no me digas!; ¡no me lo puedo creer!Well, I never!
no dijo ni una sola palabraNever a word [did he say]