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しょうがない (See: This blog post, and Wikipedia)

Like "Japanese people", I am often placed in situations where no matter how hard I try, I can't change the outcome/fate. The only thing I can do is accept it.

My favored response in such a situation in English is a dejected utterance of "oh well" and/or a half-hearted shrug. Other possible rhetorical verbal responses include "can't be helped I guess" and "too bad". Situations can include the minor (It just started raining! "Oh well") and major (a hundred African children just died today because of malnourishment. "Oh well")

I have collected the following possible expressions that may be Japanese counterparts of "oh well":

まあいいけど 仕方ないか (and its variants) まあともかく そうか...

Does anyone know the difference (if any) and correct usage? And any other ones?

  • "どうしようもない" might be one. But, please check that with a native speaker. – usdxile Dec 5 '13 at 16:30
  • That sounds pretty heavy. – l'électeur Dec 6 '13 at 0:27
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As a Japanese-speaker, I myself say 「ま、いいか。」 or 「ま、いっか。」 most often in less serious situatons. IMHO, those expressions would carry the feeling of "Oh well." the best. That ま is a colloquial form of まあ. However, one should avoid saying those in response to very sad or serious news because one could sound like one was saying "Whatever."

I do not often say 「しかたない」 or 「しょうがない」 myself. Those sound too "textbook" to me depending on when and how one says them but it is also true that there are situations that call for "textbook" comments, so it is しょうがない that I end up saying those phrases once in a while.

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