Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "ni ir ni venir" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish
Etymology: Literally, “neither go nor come”.
  • IPA: /ˌni ˌiɾ ˌni beˈniɾ/ [ˌni ˌiɾ ˌni β̞eˈniɾ]
  • Syllabification: ni ir ni ve‧nir

In the world of language, idioms are a fascinating aspect that can be both confusing and intriguing. They are phrases or expressions that carry a deeper meaning beyond their literal translation. One such idiom in the Spanish language is ni ir ni venir.

This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone is indecisive or unable to make up their mind. It literally translates to neither going nor coming, but its figurative meaning refers to being stuck in one place without making any progress.

The Origin of “Ni Ir Ni Venir”

Like many idioms, the origin of this phrase is unknown. However, it has been used for centuries in Spain and Latin America, becoming an integral part of everyday conversation.

Examples of Usage

Ni ir ni venir can be used in various situations, from personal decisions to political discussions. For instance:

  • “No puedo decidir qué carrera estudiar, estoy en un ‘ni ir ni venir’ constante.” (I can’t decide which career to study; I’m constantly in a state of indecision.)
  • “El gobierno está en un ‘ni ir ni venir’ sobre cómo manejar la crisis económica.” (The government is indecisive about how to handle the economic crisis.)

Understanding this idiom will not only help you communicate better with native Spanish speakers but also give you insight into their culture and way of thinking.

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “ni ir ni venir”

The Spanish language is rich in idioms that are unique to its culture and history. One such idiom is ni ir ni venir, which translates to “neither going nor coming”. This phrase has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages when Spain was under Muslim rule.

During this time, many Arabic words and phrases were adopted into the Spanish language. One such phrase was la yarida wa la tarifa, which meant “neither departing nor arriving”. Over time, this phrase evolved into the modern-day Spanish idiom of “ni ir ni venir”.

The origins of this idiom can be traced back to the concept of liminality, or being in a state between two different places or states. In medieval times, travelers would often find themselves in liminal spaces such as crossroads or borders between kingdoms. The idea of being neither here nor there became ingrained in the cultural consciousness and eventually found its way into everyday speech.

Today, the idiom ni ir ni venir is used to describe someone who is indecisive or unable to make up their mind about something. It can also be used more broadly to refer to situations where no progress is being made or where things are at a standstill.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “ni ir ni venir”

One common usage of this idiom is to express indecision or uncertainty about a particular situation. For example, if someone asks you whether you plan to attend a party later that evening, you might respond with ni ir ni venir to indicate that you are not sure whether or not you will go.

Another variation of this idiom involves using it to describe someone who is being non-committal or evasive. In this case, saying that someone is ni ir ni venir suggests that they are avoiding taking a clear stance on an issue or making a decision.

Additionally, ni ir ni venir can be used as a way of expressing disinterest or detachment from something. If someone asks for your opinion on a topic that doesn’t interest you, for instance, you might reply with this phrase to indicate that it’s not something you care about one way or another.

In some cases, this idiom can also be used humorously or sarcastically. For example, if someone tells a joke that falls flat and nobody laughs, they might say bueno…ni ir ni venir as a way of acknowledging the awkwardness of the situation.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “ni ir ni venir”


  • Titubear – To hesitate or waver in making a decision.
  • Vacilar – To vacillate or be uncertain about something.
  • Dudar – To doubt or have reservations about something.


  • Decidirse – To make up one’s mind or decide on something.
  • Elegir – To choose or select from among options.
  • Afirmar – To affirm or assert a position confidently.

In Hispanic cultures, being decisive is often valued as a sign of confidence and leadership. Therefore, the idiom ni ir ni venir can be seen as negative trait that may lead to missed opportunities. However, it is also important to consider cultural nuances and understand that there are times when being cautious and thoughtful before making decisions can also be beneficial.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “ni ir ni venir”

Are you looking to improve your understanding of the Spanish language? Do you want to expand your knowledge of idioms and expressions commonly used by native speakers? If so, then these practical exercises for the Spanish idiom ni ir ni venir are perfect for you!

In order to truly master this expression, it’s important to not only understand its literal translation but also how it is used in context. These exercises will help you do just that by providing real-life scenarios where ni ir ni venir can be applied.

Firstly, try using ni ir ni venir in a sentence about indecision. For example: “Estoy tan indeciso sobre qué película ver esta noche que estoy en modo ‘ni ir ni venir’.” This translates to: “I’m so undecided about which movie to watch tonight that I’m in ‘neither here nor there’ mode.”

Next, practice using the expression when describing someone who is avoiding taking sides or making a decision. For instance: Mi amigo siempre se mantiene en modo ‘ni ir ni venir’ cuando hay una discusión política. This means: “My friend always stays in ‘neither here nor there’ mode when there’s a political discussion.”

Finally, challenge yourself by incorporating the idiom into a conversation with a native speaker. Ask them about their opinion on something and respond with an appropriate use of ni ir ni venir. This will not only help improve your language skills but also allow you to connect more deeply with Spanish-speaking cultures.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “ni ir ni venir”

When using the Spanish idiom ni ir ni venir, it’s important to understand its meaning and usage. This phrase is often used to express neutrality or indifference towards a situation, but there are common mistakes that non-native speakers make when trying to use it.

One mistake is using the phrase in situations where it doesn’t fit. For example, saying no tengo ni ir ni venir (I have neither come nor gone) when someone asks if you want coffee may not make sense and could confuse native speakers.

Another mistake is misusing the verb tense. The correct form of the idiom uses present tense verbs, so saying no tuve ni ir ni venir (I had neither gone nor come) would be incorrect.

It’s also important to remember that this idiom should not be translated word for word into English. It’s a unique expression in Spanish that has its own nuances and cultural context.

To avoid these mistakes, it’s helpful to practice using the idiom in different contexts and with native speakers who can provide feedback on proper usage. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can effectively communicate your neutrality or indifference towards a situation using this popular Spanish idiom.

Mistake Correction
Using the phrase out of context Understanding when and how to use “ni ir ni venir”
Misusing verb tense Using present tense verbs with the idiom
Translating word for word into English Recognizing the unique nuances and cultural context of the idiom
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: