Literally, the phrase translates as "It makes/does nothing". I suppose it's short for "Es macht mir nichts aus"* = "I don't mind it".
To me as a native speaker, it feels more like it means "It does [me?] no harm" / "No harm done", but I'm really not sure if those feelings are correct.
The phrase is used e.g. as an answer to "sorry" like when somebody stepped on your foot or made a scratch in your car (which you don't mind), or when somebody asks you to do them a favour and admits it'll mean some inconvenience for you: "(Das) macht nichts, I've got nothing to do right now anyway."
(* "Es macht mir nichts aus" is not a construction of "machen" and "aus"; the verb is "ausmachen". "Würde es dir etwas ausmachen, [das zu tun]?" = "Would you mind [doing this]?")
For comparison: "Es macht nichts, wenn du die Sonnencreme vergessen hast." = "It's not a problem if you forgot the sunscreen lotion, it'll be cloudy all day anyway." ...and if you turn this sentence into a conversation, you again get: "I forgot to bring the sunscreen lotion." "Macht nichts. (we're not going to need it / I've brought some myself / it's not really 'not a problem' but I politely excuse you)"
The phrase is used e.g. as an answer to "sorry" like when somebody stepped on your foot or made a scratch in your car (which you don't mind), or when somebody asks you to do them a favour and admits it'll mean some inconvenience for you
Then "no worries" is probably the closest fixed English expression with the same meaning.
Sometimes the meaning comes from the phrase as a whole, rather than the individual words. Such expressions are called idioms and occur in every language. They are often impossible to translate word-for-word and just need to be memorised as a whole. I do think Duolingo could categories them better, but since it's such a common expression I don't think it should be reserved for the later levels...
Interestingly I personally always feel that it helps me, when I try to understand the literal meaning of idioms. You can very often actually understand where the meaning comes from and then it is easyer (at least for me) to remember it. In my opinion, literal translations and explanations about the origin of certain sayings and idioms should be more common in language learning programs. :)
and the program really ought to accept it.
I am of two minds about it. This is exactly what I answered, it hasn't been accepted and I ended up reading this thread. So now I know the common meaning of this expression. Had my answer been accepted, I would have just sailed through without a pause and would have never learnt this fixed expression. Since I am here to learn the language and not to score points, I think I actually prefer it the way it is.
Technically that also works, using macht as the plural informal imperative. However, I don't think that's a common way to phrase it, especially compared to the prevalence of the "Doesn't matter!/Never mind!" meaning. It could also be "Power nothing" using the noun Macht, but it's also nonsense. I think part of what we should learn about this translation is that it's a common fixed phrase.
I am a native German speaker and this phrase has always meant something more like "no problem" or "that's ok". For example - if I say "Ich habe dein Buch vergessen." my friend might say "Ach, macht nichts". I would never have correlated "macht nichts" with "never mind"
Hi GregorDzie. Am I right in thinking that it is a polite idiom to use? I only ask as I wouldn't say "never mind" unless I was having an argument. I would, however, say "that's okay" or "no problem" in a friendly conversation, maybe not in a formal conversation though. Thanks for your comment.
I think of it as a gentle acceptance of an admission, perhaps to use on a child or friend " I've got mud on my shirt" "Never mind it'll wash". "I can't come round next Thursday" "Never mind we'll arrange a different day". It can be used impatiently with a different tone of voice "What did you say" "Oh, never mind!". It all depends on the context and voice tone. Here in UK it is a common phrase.
Do nothing is the literal translation, or could be, so it should be accepted. I reported it. But now I will know the phrase as its idiomatic translation as well. However, when I read, "Never mind!" with an exclamation like that, it would usually make me think the person was mad, saying, "forget it!" or,"Ok, fine, just never mind!" not the "don't worry about it, it's ok!" type of comment.
I had 'doesn't matter', as in: someone steps on your toe when standing at a concert and looks apprehensively at you, afraid that you're going to take it as an insult, and you respond by shrugging your shoulders and saying: doesnt matter/macht nichts
As of 6 february 2019 that's not accepted
"No worries!" or "No big deal!" (or the slang version, "No biggie!") are the common ways to express this in American English. "Never mind!" can also be used, but it is quite often used in a negative sense, as in if you as someone to do something for you, and they seem to be grudging about it, so you say "Fine! Never mind then!" in exasperation.