‘Jamás’ vs ‘Nunca’: NEVER Worry About Them Again!

In short – ‘jamás’ and ‘nunca’ can both translate to ‘never’ in English. They’re synonyms and can be used interchangeably, but ‘jamás’ sounds a little more final than ‘nunca’ (i.e., that’s the final and irrevocable end of the matter!).

It took me years of listening to native speakers to work out the (very subtle and nuanced!) difference between the two, so read on if you’re looking for a quick cheat sheet … AND you’ll also learn some super useful phrases to boot!

Trust me when I say that you’re in for a veritable ‘jamás’ and ‘nunca’ feast!

Jamás’ vs ‘nunca’

A quick glance at the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE) shows that ‘nunca’ and ‘jamás’ are indeed synonyms.

In fact, the first and only definition of ‘jamás’ is none other than a simple ‘nunca.

Man holding up a sign saying "jamás" with a resolute look in his eyes and another man looking ever-so-slightly sure of himself holding up a sign saying "nunca"

So that’s that then, article finished, on to the next!

Not so fast … Spanish speakers do have a preference when using the two.

For years I thought that the two were synonymous and that there was literally no difference between them, but now when I say both out loud, one of them feels stronger and more … categorical!

Let me explain –

Native speakers tend to use ‘jamás’ when the message/decision is final and irrevocable (i.e., there’s no turning back).

Native speakers tend to use ‘nunca’ when the message/decision is final, but there’s an oh-so-slim chance that it could potentially be revoked.

There are also various set phrases in which the two are NOT interchangeable!

For example, we DO say ‘nunca más’, but we NEVER say ‘jamás más’.

You can find the most common of these set phrases JUST BELOW (you can thank me later!).

Let’s look at some examples using both words –

El secreto que te acabo* de confesar, nunca lo debes divulgar.

The secret I just told you, you must never divulge.

El secreto que te acabo de* confesar, jamás lo debes divulgar.

The secret I just told you, you must never divulge.

This second sentence sounds just a little bit more final and irrevocable.

¡Nunca voy a salir del país!

I’m never going to leave the country!

¡Jamás voy a salir del país!

I’m never going to leave the country!

Again, the second sentence sounds more final.

*Rupert’s pro tip – just as with ‘jamás‘ and ‘nunca‘, I was a little bit confused the first time I heard the expression ‘ACABAR DE + INFINITIVE’ (I mean, ‘acabar‘ means ‘to finish‘, right?) … but I eventually managed to work out that it’s the Spanish equivalent of ‘to have just done something’.

Expressions with ‘jamás‘ / ‘nunca

There are quite a few set expressions with both ‘nunca’ and ‘jamás’ where the two are typically NOT interchangeable!

You’ll also see that ‘jamás’ is used in the most final and definitive expressions!

Nunca jamás

This one’s similar to the English phrase ‘never again’; it’s used to make clear that something’s not going to happen EVER again.

Neverland’, the mystical land of eternal childhood in the children’s classic Peter Pan was translated as ‘La Tierra de Nunca Jamás’ in Spanish.

For example –

Sketch of Peter Pan

Una mamá está contando una historia a su hijo

Mamá – Y nunca se volvieron a ver.

Hijo – ¿Nunca?

Mamá – Nunca jamás.

A mom is telling her son a story

Mom – And they never saw each other again.

Son – Never?

Mom – Never again.

Erick – ¿Quieres volver a probar el chile habanero?

César – ¡Nunca jamás! ¡Primero muerto!

Erick – Do you want to try habanero chili again?

César – Never again! Over my dead body!

Jamás de los jamases

Jamás de los jamases‘ is a way of emphatically saying that you don’t want to do something OR that you categorically haven’t done something.

For example –

Elsa – ¿Alguna vez has ido a Nueva Zelanda?

María – Jamás de los jamases, pero algún día iré.

Elsa – Have you ever been to New Zealand?

María – Never, but someday I’ll go.

Carlos – ¿Te vas a subir a la montaña rusa?

Juan – ¡Jamás de los jamases! ¡Ni a punta de pistola!

Carlos – Are you going on the roller coaster?

Juan – Absolutely not! Not even at gunpoint!

Nunca digas nunca

This one’s the Spanish equivalent of the English phrase ‘never say never’.

Notice that the implication is that ‘never’ isn’t actually all that final, which is maybe why the more definitive ‘jamás’ is nowhere to be seen …

For example –

Isabella – Yo no quiero tener hijos jamás.

Carmen – ¡Nunca digas nunca! Cuando te cases y te establezcas cambiarás de opinión.

Isabella – I never want to have children.

Carmen – Never say never! When you get married and settle down, you’ll change your mind.

Por siempre jamás

This one’s very different from the other expressions on this list as it actually means ‘forever’.

For example –

Te amaré por siempre* jamás.

I will love you forever.

Y vivieron felices por siempre* jamás.

And they lived happily ever after.

It’s as if ‘jamás’ were being used to emphasize the finality of the two statements …

*Expert tip – if you’d like to know the difference (it’s also VERY subtle!) between ‘POR SIEMPRE’ AND ‘PARA SIEMPRE’, well, we’ve actually written an entire article on just that!

Before you go …

Since you’re on a bit of a Spanish-learning roll, why not check out one of the following:




¡Nos vemos en la tierra de Nunca Jamás!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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