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Could you tell me if there is any difference in meaning and usage between the last time and one last time? For example:

Dad, can I use your car the last time?

Dad, can I use your car one last time?

By the way, do I need to include for before the phrases or is it totally optional? For example:

Dad, can I use your car for the last time?

Dad, can I use your car for one last time?

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  • Dad might say This is the last time as he hands you the keys, but it's not very idiomatic for you to use the definite article form when asking. Note that one is effectively an "intensified, emphatic" alternative to the (definite or indefinite) article in such contexts. For some reason that's not clear to me, if you are going to use the definite article, it's MUCH MORE idiomatic if you also include for, whereas if you use one instead of the, including for as well is entirely arbitrary (your versions #2 and #4 are both absolutely fine). – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '20 at 11:54
  • Thank you for trying to explain it, but could you please tell me why it's not okey to say "Dad, can I use your car for the last time?"? – Dmytro O'Hope Jun 30 '20 at 12:38
  • I only said it's "not very idiomatic". That doesn't necessarily mean it's "not okay" - it's just not very likely. And I'd say that because in practice you'd almost always be emphasizing the fact of it being the last time you intend to borrow the car (Yeah, yeah! :), then if you were a native speaker you'd almost certainly convey that emphasis by using one, not the. – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '20 at 12:48
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You only need "for" in the first example to make it idiomatic:

  • Dad, can I use your car for the last time?

  • Dad, can I use your car one last time?

"The last time" can refer to a previous time, so without "for" to indicate a future possibility it doesn't fit with the tense of the question. There is another issue with this first example though - in at least some British dialects, adding "for the last time" to the end of a question can mean "this is the last time I am going to ask" and express annoyance.

That aside, the difference between the two questions as they are intended is that the definite article "the" makes it seem more final - "the last" is definitely the last.

"One last time" infers an additional use, and that perhaps the previous occasion was believed to be "the last".

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