So, I hear you’re wondering about the expressions me da igual and da igual and how they may be used differently. If you’ve spent some time in Spain, you’ve probably noticed that these are some of the top five expressions you’re likely to hear the locals using, but what do they REALLY mean? Let’s dive a little deeper and analyze the connotations and contexts as well to make you feel fully confident using these expressions in your Spanish conversations.
Me da igual
Rough English translation: “It doesn’t matter to me,” “It’s all the same to me,” or “it doesn’t bother me”
Literally translating, me da igual means “it gives me the same” but it’s a much better translation if you equate this expression to “it doesn’t matter to me.” You will often hear me da igual used as a response when a decision is to be made but the person responding is not bothered by either of the options. Of course, this is most common with unimportant decisions like “should we go to six o’clock or the eight o’clock movie?” or “Do you want pepperoni or sausage on our pizza?” The person who uses me da igual to respond is expressing that they would genuinely be happy with either choice. Ergo, the other person(s) is free to make the decision.
Similarly, this expression can be used to convey that someone else’s actions or decisions don’t (or won’t) bother you. For example, if a Spanish roommate has the TV but is not actually watching it (or is not very interested in it), it’s normal for their answer to “Do you mind if I change the channel?” to be “No, me da igual.”
Pro-Tip: You can take this expression at face value! As we discussed with the expression no pasa nada, this phrase is used genuinely and so the person using it literally means that they don’t mind! You need not worry that it’s a ‘trap’ and that they actually DO care and want you to infer this.
Examples in context:
¡Oye! ¿Vamos al concierto esta noche, no? (Hey! We’re going to the concert tonight, right?)
Sí, sí. ¿Empieza a las nueve, no? (Yah. It starts at nine, right?)
Sí, ¿quieres comer en casa o echarnos unas tapas antes? (Yes, do you want to eat at home or grab some tapas beforehand?)
Me da igual. ¿Tú qué prefieres? (It doesn’t matter to me. What do you prefer?)
Rough English translation: “It doesn’t matter” or “Whatever”
The difference between me da igual and da igual is very subtle and lies precisely within the missing personal object ‘me’ (pronounced as ‘may’) and refering to me/I. If you know a little bit about how Spanish works, you’re probably familiar with how indirect objects (me, te, le, nos, os, les) work. The basic explanation is that these objects are added to express who the action affects. For example “le dije las noticias” translates to “I told him the news” whereas an example without this object such as “escuché las noticias” would translate to “I heard the news.”
In our case today, the difference is that me da igual expresses only how the speaker is affected (“It doesn’t matter to me,” but I can’t speak for anyone else) whereas da igual conveys the belief that “it doesn’t matter to anyone.” Thus, this version is used more for generalizations and opinions we believe to be held universally. For example, if your friends invite you out at the last minute and you try to use the excuse that you’re not dressed properly, “da igual” will likely be their response as they attempt to convince you that this truly doesn’t matter (to them or anyone else you may come across).
Alternatively, da igual is often used during conversation to express that the speaker is finished with the topic and wants to ‘drop it’ or if they have failed to convey some specific detail but it’s not all that important and they want to move on with the rest of the story. A good example would be one of those situations in which a friend is trying to remind you of something you can’t recollect, but it’s not essential to the story (something along the lines of the conversation in the second example). In this sense it functions more like a “whatever, moving on…”
Examples in context:
¡Brindamos! (Let’s ‘cheers.’)
¡Ay, solo tengo agua! No puedo brindar con agua, es mala suerte. (Oh no, I only have water! I can’t ‘cheers’ with water; it’s bad luck.)
¡Da igual! [A nadie le importa si brindas con agua.] (It doesn’t matter! [No one cares if you ‘cheers’ with water.])
¿Te acuerdes de María, no? (You remember María, right?)
Pues, no… (Umm, no…)
¡¿Cómo que no?! Estaba en tu clase de historia. (What do you mean ‘no’? She was in your history class.)
Blank stare. “ ”
Tiene pelo rubio. (She has blonde hair.)
Blank stare. “ ”
Es amiga de Juan. (She’s Juan’s friend.)
Pues, no me acuerdo de ella. (Well, I don’t remember her.)
Bueno, ¡da igual! Anoche estaba con ella y… (Fine, whatever! Yesterday I was with her and…)
Pro-tip: If you’re looking to use da igual in a scenario like this second example you can incorporate some body language to seem extra Spanish. I’ve personally never experienced this type of da igual without a shake of the head and/or slight throwing up of one’s hands (think a much more tame very of ‘shake it off’).
Hope these explanations can help you in your Spanish conversation! On a side note, I simply wanted to mention that before sitting down to write this article, I had a good chat with a friend about how he would describe the differences between these two expressions and he was definitely a little stumped at the beginning. After a pause, he started to give me a decent answer with some examples but it wasn’t really until he asked “so how would you translate da igual to English?” that we were able to get into the thorough response and the explanations I shared above. Until he thought about the differences in English, he couldn’t quite verbalize the differences in his own language.
It really reiterated my belief that it’s so important to change perspectives and to try to see things from the outside-in from time to time. Because he’s Spanish, the ways to use each expression feel innate and obvious but to a language-learner it’s not so clear. As an English teacher I also run into this phenomenon and it’s one of my favorite lessons learned on the job! I find that when we try to stop and explain something that’s ‘obvious’ to us, we often end up struggling to put it into words and realize it’s not obvious at all! Has this ever happened to you? How often do you stop to wonder ‘why?’ in your native language and could it perhaps benefit you to do so more?
Let us know your thoughts as well as any other specific doubts we can help clear up in future Spanish expressions articles.