How To Use the Spanish Pronoun ‘Nada’

Word can be translated as ‘nothing’ or ‘anything’

park-faucet.jpg
Nada es lo que parece. (Nothing is what it seems.) Photo taken at a park in Cádiz, Spain.

Emilio J. Rodríguez-Posada / Creative Commons

Nada is the usual Spanish pronoun meaning "nothing"—but because double negatives are common in Spanish, the word nada can often be translated as "anything."

Nada Meaning 'Nothing'

When nada indeed means "nothing," usually as the subject of a sentence, the use of nada is straightforward for English speakers:

  • Nada es mejor que la maternidad. (Nothing is better than motherhood.)
  • Nada es más importante en este momento de nuestra historia. (Nothing is more important at this time in our history.)
  • Nada puede cambiarme. (Nothing can change me.)
  • Nada tiene más vida que las cosas que se recuerdan. (Nothing has more life than the things that are remembered.)
  • Nada es lo que parece. (Nothing is what it seems.)
  • No quiero participar en la discusión sobre nada importante. (I don't want to participate in the discussion about nothing important.)

When the Verb With Nada Is Negated

However, when nada is the object of a verb, it is normal for the verb itself to be negated. Therefore, when translating such sentences, you usually have to translate nada as "anything" or something similar, or use the verb in a positive form. In the following examples, either translation is acceptable:

  • No hay nada más. (There isn't anything more. There is nothing more.)
  • Este congreso no sirve para nada. (This Congress isn't worth anything. This Congress is worthless.)
  • El manifestante habló dos horas sin decir nada. (The protester spoke for two hours without saying anything. The protester spoke for two hours and said nothing.)
  • No hay nada más grande que proteger los niños. (There is nothing more important than protecting children. There isn't anything more important than protecting children.
  • He decidido que no quiero comer nada con conservantes o aditivos. (I have decided I don't want to eat anything with preservatives or additives. I have decided I want to eat nothing with preservatives or additives.)
  • No me gusta nada. (I don't like anything. I like nothing. Technically, nada is the subject of this sentence, but the double-negative rule still applies.)

Using Nada for Emphasis

Sometimes you'll hear nada used as an adverb, where (after taking the double negative into account) it is usually used as an intensifier and thus can mean "not at all":

  • Mi hermano no estudia nada y no ayuda nada en casa. (My brother doesn't study at all nor help out at home at all.)
  • Si tengo paraguas no corro nada. (If I have an umbrella I don't run at all.)
  • No aprendí nada difícil. (I didn't learn anything difficult at all.)

Using Nada in Questions

In questions, nada is nearly always used with a negative verb:

  • ¿No ha estudiado nada de eso? (You haven't studied any of that?)
  • ¿No puede ver nada el niño? (Can't the boy see anything?)
  • ¿Por qué no tenemos nada? (Why don't we have anything?)

Phrases Using Nada

Here are some common phrases using nada:

ahí es nada (similar to "no big deal," a way of emphasizing and downplaying something at the same time): Han estado casados por 50 años. Ahi es nada. (They have been married for 50 years. No big deal.)

antes que nada (most importantly, above everything else): Antes que nada, queremos que viva. (Above everything, we want him to live.) 

de nada (unimportant, of little value): Traje a casa una monedas de nada. (I brought home some worthless coins.) The phrase de nada is also frequently used as the equivalent of "you're welcome" after gracias (thank you), similar to saying "It's nothing" after being thanked. 

como si nada (as if it were nothing): Después de todo lo que dije, salió como si nada. (After everything I told him, he left as if it were nothing.)

nada como (nothing like): No hay nada como el hogar. (There is no place like home.)

Avoiding Confusion With Conjugated Nadar

Nada meaning "nothing" shouldn't be confused with nada, the third-person present indicative form of nadar, to swim:

  • Nada todas las mañanas en la piscina. (She swims every morning in the swimming pool.)
  • El atleta nada a casi nueve kilómetros por hora. (The athlete swims at almost nine kilometers an hour.)
  • Nada en agua fría como si nada. (She swims in cold water as if it were nothing.)

Key Takeaways

  • Nada is the Spanish word for "nothing."
  • Because of the ways negatives are used in Spanish, nada is sometimes translated as "anything."
  • Nada is sometimes used as a word of emphasis.