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The only time I've ever seen Germans say nein is in the movies or in textbooks. I've also heard a politician say nein when she wanted to make a strong stand again a comment. I'm guessing nein is more forceful and formal language than nee, which seems to be slang.

So I'm guessing if I don't want my language to seem weird I should use nee to negate a sentence and not nein, especially with younger people and in casual settings like a bar. Or is my impression wrong?

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If you want to learn German, then you learn standard German, which will be understood in all countries where German is spoken. But »nee« is not a standard-German word. It is a dialect word. »Nee« is part of many dialects, spoken mainly in mid and northern parts of Germany. But there are also German dialects, where »nein« is another word:

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See also here.

If you really want to learn one of the many German dialects, you better should learn standard German before. So do not replace »nein« by »nee«. Everybody will understand you if you say »nein«. And even if you say »nee« in a region where people use this word: Nobody will believe, that you really speak the local dialect as long as you have any non-German accent.

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Sidenote, perhaps a tad off-topic. Nee (pronounced nay) is the Dutch translation of nein. It would not surprise me if this has had influence on the dialect's regional spread. – Stephan Bijzitter Jan 10 at 0:02
I never thought of nee and excluding each other. Then there’s or ne, a less emphatic variant with short vowel. – Crissov Jan 11 at 22:52
@StephanBijzitter The distribution of nee is very similar to the distribution of Low German (closely related to Dutch) and Central German dialects. nee is nein in Low German. – Roland Jan 14 at 15:10
In general, nee is not a dialect word but a colloquial word. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree. – Jan Jan 19 at 14:08
@Jan: What exactly is the difference between a colloquial word and a dialect word? – Hubert Schölnast Jan 19 at 18:08

“Nee” is not slang, it's simply dialect. This form of “nein” occurs in more than one, but definitely not in all German dialects.

I am from Berlin, and even though I do not speak a real Berlin dialect, saying “nee” is one of these things that happen when I speak sloppily, but not in all instances, so I say “nein” often enough and would not find it in any way strange if someone else uses it, especially not if German is not that person's first language.

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»This form of “nein” occurs in more than one, but definitely not in all German dialects.« Correct. In Bavaria and Austria it is »Naa« (long a). But you can also hear »nee« in those regions, especially among young urban people. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 9 at 20:07
@HubertSchölnast, interesting, I had not noticed the use of “nee” when I was in the south. It probably seemed to natural for me to notice. – Carsten S Jan 9 at 20:23
The group of people using »nee« in Austria is small, but it exists. You find them among people under the age of 20/25. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 9 at 20:31

I would have said "nee", but it has to be 30 characters, so:

No, there is no difference. only that "nee" is slightly more slang. You wouldn't use it in an official paper.

While others have stated it is dialect, I personally would say that saying "nee" is acceptable and will be understood in every German-speaking region, it may just not be the most common way of abbreviating "nein".

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Only because it's kind of a pun, I'm not going to vote for deleting this answer. Other than that, it doesn't add anything which hasn't already been said. – Em1 Jan 11 at 14:42
maybe now, sheriff? – user3787706 Jan 11 at 15:26

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