Most of the time, we use the word nada in Spanish as an indefinite pronoun that can be translated as either "nothing" or "anything." In this lesson, we will examine how to use this word to mean one vs. the other. Let's take a look.
Before we jump into the "nothing" vs. "anything" uses of nada, it's important to state the following: When an adjective appears next to nada, the adjective must be masculine. Let's look at a few examples:
No es nada malo, es algo natural.
It's nothing bad, it's something natural.
Caption 12, La Cocaleros - Personas y políticasPlay Caption
Tenemos que devolver a la madre y esperamos
We have to return it to the mother and hope
que la madre no encuentre nada raro en su cachorro.
that the mother doesn't find anything strange with her cub.
Captions 90-91, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Cachorro de leopardoPlay Caption
Que haya jóvenes que realicen pequeños hurtos no es nada nuevo.
That there are young people who commit petty thefts is nothing new.
Caption 16, Los Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendasPlay Caption
If nada comes after a verb, it must be expressed in a negative form with either no or some other negative element such as jamás/nunca (never) or nadie (nobody). Although such "double negatives" are incorrect in English (for example, you can't say "I don't have nothing"), in such cases in Spanish, nada becomes the positive "anything" in the English translation. Let's look at a couple of examples:
Juan no ha comido nada desde que llegó al aeropuerto.
Juan hasn't eaten anything since he arrived at the airport.
Caption 41, Carlos explica - El pretérito Cap 3: Perfecto compuesto IIPlay Caption
No, no como nada frito.
No, I don't eat anything fried.
Caption 40, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurantePlay Caption
In the example above, you can see how the adjective frito is masculine (just to check whether you remember our aforementioned rule!).
Me encanta también cocinar.
I also love to cook.
Nunca me has hecho nada, ni un plato.
You have never made anything for me, not even one dish.
Captions 74-75, Cleer - HobbiesPlay Caption
On the other hand, if nada goes before a verb, the verb does not need to be accompanied by a negative element. In this case, nada functions like the word "nothing" in English. Let's take a look:
Mi primo vive en una casucha en donde nada funciona bien.
My cousin lives in a "casucha" [awful house] where nothing works well.
Caption 54, Carlos explica - Diminutivos y Aumentativos Cap 2: Definiciones generalesPlay Caption
Nada me detendrá
Nothing will stop me
Caption 32, Ednita Nazario - Después De TiPlay Caption
Finally, keep in mind that when nada is used as a noun meaning "the void" or "nothingness," it is a feminine noun:
Era el frío de la nada
It was the cold of nothingness
Caption 41, Acercándonos a la Literatura - José Asunción Silva - "Nocturno III"Play Caption
Notice how in this case, the word nada is preceded by the definite female article "la."
That's all for this lesson. We invite you to keep these rules in mind, and don't forget to send us your suggestions and comments.