Found two example translations, one is "there is no alternative", the other is "sorry, it was awful". What is the scope of situations where it can be used? Is there a way to translate its nuance into English?

1 Answer 1


This is my 5th try in answering this question, which is why it has taken some time. The phrase is terribly difficult to explain (as the two translations you have shown might already suggest).

Short Yamato-kotoba set phrases like this are often extremely contextual and are used for different meanings and nuances in different situations. Just look at the words in the phrase:

「どう + も + こう + も + ない」

≒ "There is neither 'how' nor 'this'."

It immediately looks like there is trouble ahead, doesn't it?

Try thinking of 「どう」 as representing a how-question and 「こう」 as a reply to the how-question.

"How was your date?" "Well, it was (this and that)."

If there should be neither "how" nor "this", this conversation would not stand, would it? That is the basic meaning/nuance of 「どうもこうもない」. You just do not have many words to talk about the topic at hand because you did not like it, you are not interested in the topic, there is not much to it, etc. You just do not have anything good or interesting to say about the topic.

What it exactly means depends entirely on the context/situation. It could be said with anger, disappointment, indifference, etc. Some people say it habitually and some basically never do. I may have never used it myself.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .