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I see a lot of instances that the is preceded next/prevous but I do not see a clear pattern e.g. next year vs the next year. I need some guidelines for this. I know that the refer to the word after next/previous. I think when you use next/previous you know the current thing and so the next/previous thing should refer to a concrete instance of the noun so the should be use always.

  • The determiner the in the next year marks year, not next. Disregard any adjective (such as next or previous) that precedes the noun and use the determiner as you normally would: if year has previously been mentioned, or refers to a specific year, use the determiner. However, year, day, time, etc., are special: sometimes they can function as adverbs of time, as in "I am leaving next year." In that case, no determiner would be used. If you use the edit link to add an example to your question, we can provide more specific help. – P. E. Dant Jun 17 '17 at 1:23
  • @P.E.Dant Thanks for your answer. I have updated the question. – PHPst Jun 17 '17 at 1:26
  • @P.E.Dant So do you mean will never use definitive article in an adverbial clause? – PHPst Jun 17 '17 at 1:27
  • Sometimes the determiner can be used: "The next time I see her, I will smile." ... or "I was happy the last time I saw her." In both of these, the article is optional. There really is no "rule" that applies, as with most uses of the articles. If you add examples, we can provide specific help. – P. E. Dant Jun 17 '17 at 1:33
  • e.g I will go to Tehran next year. vs I will go to Tehran the next year. – PHPst Jun 17 '17 at 1:36
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Using or not using the article results in a very clear difference in meaning.


Next year: The year after the current one at the time the phrase is spoken.

This was a good reunion. Let's all meet again next year.

The next year: The year after some other reference point than the present.

That year there was a good harvest, but the next year there was a drought.

If you plant a mature rosebush in a given summer, you'll see flowers by the next year.

"Next year" isn't used with any other tense or time than the present, and "the next year" is only used for tenses and times other than the present.

Of course, the reference point and the time of speech could be in the same year.

You said you planted a rosebush a few months back because you wanted roses next year.

Also, you have more variability with "the next year". For example, it could become "the following year" or "the year after that".


By the way, the article has the same effect with "last year" and "the previous year", even though this time word changes (you can't say "previous year" on its own and "the last year" means "the final year").

Last year: The year before the current one at the time the phrase is spoken.

That's funny. Lots more people came to our reunion last year.

The previous year: The year before some other reference point than the present.

That year there was a drought, but the previous year there had been a good harvest.

You'll be more likely to see fruit on your cherry tree if you've sprayed it well the previous year.

Like "the next year", the phrase "the previous year" is also more open to different wordings, such as "the year before that".


Finally, this pattern also works for "week" and "month" (though not all speakers might accept "next month" on its own).

  • "If you plant a mature rosebush, you'll see flowers by [the] next year." The article is not optional here? – P. E. Dant Jun 17 '17 at 2:29
  • @P.E.Dant It could go in or out, but it would change the meaning. "If you plant a mature rosebush, you'll see flowers next year" means you're deciding whether to plant it now, this year. "If you plant a mature rosebush, you'll see flowers the next year" means whenever you plant it, in any given year, you'll have flowers the following year. (That might show up in a gardening manual.) Edited my sentence to remove ambiguity. – Luke Sawczak Jun 17 '17 at 2:35
  • Of course it changes the meaning. The writer has the option to include or omit the article, depending upon what she wants to express. – P. E. Dant Jun 17 '17 at 2:38
  • P.S. The gardening references are not to be taken on authority; I don't have a green thumb :) – Luke Sawczak Jun 17 '17 at 2:38
  • +1 Well edited! By the way, I can't think of an instance in which the adverbial previous year takes the zero article. – P. E. Dant Jun 17 '17 at 2:40

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