20

Often I hear different pronunciations for the word

Nichts

Some people pronounce it as

Nics

(Well, it sounds like "Nics".)

Does it make any difference? Is this a different dialect? Is it good to use as "Nics"?

1
  • A related phrase: "Ein Satz mit x, das war wohl nix", which is a humorous way to comment on failure. Jun 3 at 22:59
20

It's actually

nix

It's slang for nichts, as you have guessed.


I'd love to say something more but, first, I'd like to understand what is "good to use" (obviously, don't write nix it in a formal context!), and, secondly, I'm not an expert. Whence I'm pretty sure somebody will illuminate us with a better answer.

4
  • 1
    nix is shorter and easier to pronounce than nichts. Obviously, you shouldn't use it in written german. If you're dealing with friends, it's ok to shorten it. Mar 17 '15 at 15:49
  • As I am learning German, it is just a suggestion I need on when to be used and not to be used.
    – SriLaks
    Mar 17 '15 at 16:19
  • 1
    I think this is an ordinary dialect word.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 17 '15 at 19:51
  • 1
    To a learner I would recommend to use the standard pronunciation.
    – rogermue
    Jul 16 '15 at 12:12
15

Nix is, as was already pointed out, a colloquial, informal, shorter form of nichts.

Nix does not derive from any specific dialect; rather it is present in one form or another in most dialects. There are exceptions like the Berlin dialect prefering nüscht.

User Mach suppied a map in the comments which is scrollable and zoomable at least on PC which shows the distribution of various predominant forms prior to World War I. It can be seen that the largest contiguous area that does not use nix is comprised approximately the current states of the current states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Berlin and Brandenburg with some parts of southeastern Lower Saxony added; in this area nischt or nüscht are the predominant forms. This area used to extend far eastwards but to the best of my knowledge there are no longer significant German-speaking minorities there after World War II. The map excludes German-speaking areas of Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria; for most of these areas one can extend the closest form used in Germany outwards but I would be hesitant to generalise for German-speaking Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Vorarlberg region of Austria. I am fairly confident that the other parts of Austria and South Tyrol will again fit into the nix area.

It is okay to use in very informal writings, like text messages to friends or in a chat etc. Do not use it in any kind of more official written context; even in a letter to good friends, I would spell out nichts 99 % of the time.

It is also okay to use it in most contexts when speaking. (e.g: If my supervisor asks me if I had any success in an experiment, I can hear myself answering da hab ich nix rausbekommen but if I were in a job interview, I would make sure to use nichts most of the time.)

There are people (like me) who will pronounce nix in almost every spoken context while there are others that will pronounce nichts more often; I think that this is due to speaker's preference.

10
  • The assertion that the form «nix» “is present in one form or another in most dialects” is obviously wrong, as you yourself immediately prove in the next sentence. And Berlin dialect is not a rare exception, but just one of many dialects that use a form other than «nix».
    – mach
    Jun 3 at 22:58
  • 1
    @mach most does not mean all. I maintain that an overwhelming majority of dialects will have such a form and that other forms are much rarer even when aggregated.
    – Jan
    Jun 4 at 11:44
  • And I maintain that you are mistaken. And this is not just my opinion against yours, but I have proof, see Wenker-Atlas: nichts (hope the link works).
    – mach
    Jun 4 at 13:24
  • @mach The link seems to work and presents a very large nix area, not-so-large parts of nex or niksch (clearly related as per my original point), some also not-so-large parts with niz or nis/nüs (potentially related). The clear exceptions are the south-western Rhineland (Mosel/Saar into Belgium), central Hessia and the East except for Mecklenburg and Western Pommerania (including areas around Braunschweig). Some parts of the extreme South-West and Switzerland seem to use nit which may or may not be related to niz/nis and thus may or may not fit entirely. (cont.)
    – Jan
    Jun 4 at 13:35
  • 1
    @Raffzahn No, they aren't but I wasn't aware that a distinction was lost in these dialects! In that case, the nit areas do not fit my bill of being essentially the same as nix in a different dialect, I presume. Thanks for pointing it out!
    – Jan
    Jun 4 at 14:00
2

"Nix" is dialectal. Dialects which have this form exist in Northern Germany and in Bavaria. Because of this wide range, it can also be used in colloquial speech as most/all Germans will understand it. It is not slang, but use of this form might have a surprise value that would stress the message of "nothing".

By the way, "ik" is not a different way of saying "ich". Actually, it is an older form that predates the High German consonant shift and exists in dialects in which this shift has not fully taken effect, i.e. in the North.

1

Nix is basically the up-coming new, simplified pronunciation of nichts. As it is still rather young, it's not yet considered 'proper' German but purely colloquial, so the spelling has not been updated, and so, when you find the word nichts in a written text, you can't pronounce it nix when reading it aloud. It has a status similar to it's for it is and many other similar contractions in English, except it's still a bit more informal. Nix is how it is spelled when it does occur in written German, typically in informal dialogue.

0

As the OP's question has yet to be fully addressed--even the accepted answer does not really do the job--allow me to point out the difference in pronunciation. To an English speaker, nix sounds like "nicks," whereas nichts is much different. The ch sound in the German does not exist in either British or American English.

It may be described as a hollow, windy sound made near the back of the throat, and if air is not passing over your tongue when you say the ch-sound, you aren't saying it correctly.

Many speakers of English mistakenly articulate the German ch as a "k" phoneme. Common examples of butchered pronunciations are the simple German words doch (mispronounced as "dock") and Ich (misspoken as "ick").

But the ch sounds neither like a "k" nor an "sh," thus nichts is not properly pronounced as either "niks" or "nishts." To get help learning the correct tongue position for the ch-sound, practice the starting sound of English words like "Hugh" or "huge," as this is probably the closest approximation to the German ch an English speaker has.

7
  • In "nichts" there is no hard ch sound at all. It's similar to English "sh" as in "English" (in some dialects even identical). In "nix" there's isn't anything special either. It's like "ks" in "fix".
    – Em1
    Mar 18 '15 at 10:21
  • On a side note: Some Germans pronounce "ich" as "ick" in their dialect.
    – Em1
    Mar 18 '15 at 10:23
  • 1
    @Em1, I suppose "hard" was meant in the sense of "difficult". I was perplexed by this as well.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 18 '15 at 11:57
  • 1
    The question on the table is: What is the difference in pronounciation [sic] of “Nichts” and “Nics”? To be clear, the accepted response explaining the slang relationship between those two words does not answer the question. Further, the response explaining the acceptability of pronouncing nix over nichts, without once describing the actual difference in the sound of those two words, does not address the OP's question either.
    – Mac
    Mar 18 '15 at 14:40
  • 1
    @Carsten: I understood the question quite well. My criticisms were not attacks and ought not to be taken as such. I merely pointed out the two responses prior to mine did not address the OP's headline question.
    – Mac
    Mar 18 '15 at 14:44
-3

"Nix" and "nics" are not words from any German dialect, but simply words from another language.
"Niks" is a very common and ordinary Dutch word meaning "nichts".
However:
Don't tell Germans that. They don't like to hear that. They generally tend to think of the Dutch language as a dialect of German, rather than a true language, which seen from their end makes perfect sense.

The Dutch and German languages serve entirely different purposes. The German purpose forces the Germans to have a well defined language consisting primarily of words of German origin.

The Dutch language has a much larger and richer vocabulary than German, which however consists almost entirely of words that have their origins in other languages, German being the most important one of those.

Sometimes words go the other way, like with "Nix". I am not so sure Germans will agree with this.

Germans absolutely have to know where the hammer is hanging, which is why they decided to agree to forget a long time ago.
This becomes most visible in words adopted from other languages into German. Their meaning in German tends to refer to their use in Germany, rather than their meaning in the language of origin.
So any downvotes to this answer most likely come from Germans who didn't get the point.

Modern everyday German gets literally littered with foreign words, which doesn't do it much good. "Nix" is one of those words, generally incorporated in common speech, but rejected in formal German. It will probably emerge one day with a brand new meaning of its own.

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