Can anyone help me with any differences between those words? C-E dictionaries say "there's no way out" or "nothing can be done" for all of them, C-C dictionaries say about the same.

However, I was corrected using 莫可奈何 and 沒轍 wrong in these examples:

B: 還不就是我媽,三天兩頭就幫我安排相親,他明知道我最排斥相親這件事!唉!別人我還可以不理,偏偏他是我老媽,我也【莫可奈何】。

A: 都什麼時代了,你買還來相親這一套啊?!不過話是回來,天下父母心,做父母的總是為子女的終身大事,我也 【沒轍】,沒法幫你。真是難為你了。

I put 沒轍 for 莫可奈何 and vice versa. Can anyone explain the different notions of these two words? I added 沒辦法 as well, because maybe there are some similarities.

Thanks for all the help.

  • 1
    I would use 無可奈何 instead of 莫可奈何 because the latter one is not often seen. The difference between them is the degree of formality: 沒轍colloquial <沒辦法colloquial <無可奈何written or colloquial.
    – Stan
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 16:56
  • 没辙 is regional, 莫可奈何 is too formal. It is a matter of style more than grammar.
    – user4452
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    On top of what the above comments said (which I completely agree), as a native speaker from a region where 没辙 is commonly used (Northern China), the two words are completely interchangeable and sound perfectly natural either way in your two examples.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 19:35

4 Answers 4


These three phrases differ in register, which affects how and when they will be used.

méi bànfǎ 沒辦法 is basic Mandarin and can be used in ordinary speech and writing without any issues arising.

mò kě nàihé 莫可奈何 is a highly learnèd idiom; a more common form is wú kě nàihé 無可奈何. As four-character Classical idioms, they have a certain formal "air" to them, even though 無可奈何 is pretty common. But it is a less basic expression than 沒辦法 — I would use 沒辦法 nine times out of ten, at least. I have never used 莫可奈何.

méizhé 沒轍 is highly colloquial and has a regional flavor. I wouldn't use it unless it's part of your normal regional accent.


没办法(standard Mandarin) = 没辙(dominantly used in Northeastern area of China but understood by all Chinese)

be unable to find a way out;
can't do anything about it;
can't help it;
have no other way but to do sth.

无可奈何 = 没办法 + feeling bad and helpless

You may use 无可奈何 when you 没办法 and also feel terrible for your lack of strength.

No one uses 莫可奈何 nowadays.


I looked up in the dictionary and felt nobody in the comments would hit the point. 莫可奈何 or 無可奈何 means that "(things have already been this and) nothing more can be done". If you only want to express that nothing can be done, using 沒轍(more colloquial) or 沒辦法 are both OK.
The best-known usage of 無可奈何 is in 《史記》: A person named Fan Wuji committed suicide, and the Prince of Yan arrived too late to stop him. Since Fan was dead, the Prince felt 無可奈何 and used a box to contain Fan's head and returned.


沒轍 is a word originally from Beijing or north China local tongue, which means I have no way out. In fact the 3 are the same meaning, but 莫可奈何 is more textual and is from ancient Chinese. 沒辦法 is as modern Chinese

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