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As far as I know:
"next time" and "the next time" are interchangeable;
"next time" is an informal form of "the next time".

To make sure of it, I've prepared some examples.


oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com:
(1) Next time I'll bring a book.
my variant:
(2) The next time I'll bring a book.

Is (2) also correct?
Do (1) and (2) mean the same?
If not, then what's the difference between them?


wordreference.com:
(3) I'll bring the book, next time.
my variant:
(4) I'll bring the book, the next time.

Is (4) also correct?
Do (3) and (4) mean the same?
If not, then what's the difference between them?

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1 Answer 1

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There’s no difference in meaning, though the version without the sounds better.

If we put things in the past, though, it gets very interesting. Consider this intro and the pair of subsequent sentences:

The new doctor was fine, but he sat in her waiting room for two hours.

  1. So he swore he’d bring a book the next time.
  2. So he swore he’d bring a book next time.

Version 1 suggests that that next time—his second appointment—has already happened, that it too is in the past. Version 2, on the other hand, suggests that his second appointment is yet to come.

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  • I think your distinction is a consequence of the fact that next time with no article and no further qualification (such as the next time I come) is inherently more "immediate". Leading to a tendency (no more than that) for us to say I'll bring a book next time vs He said he'd bring a book the next time he came. But it's only a weak tendency, anyway. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 11:56
  • I don’t know, @FumbleFingers. If bare next time were the more immediate, then wouldn’t it be the one to take place sooner? But as I described, it’s the one that’s still in the future, and thus is the more remote. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 12:07
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    But "next time" is always in the future! What I mean is there's more "immediacy" to the reference when the speaker himself is referring to the nearest future occasion like the one taking place at time of speaking. If no such occasion is currently taking place, or the reference is being made by someone other than the "primary agent" (the doctor's receptionist, rather than the patient) it's more likely we'll include the article and further identification of that future occasion: Don't forget to wear a mask the next time you come in. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 12:18
  • I think your inference about the meaning of the definite article in "the next time" is arbitrary. It need not have happened already; it could simply be planned or merely expected to occur at some point in the future. "This practice triple books. I'm bringing an Icelandic saga the next time." Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 13:03
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    @TimRonsomedevice, it’s certainly far from ironclad. That’s why I phrased my remark in terms of suggests. In any event, your example is in the present tense, and I described a curious thing about its use in speaking about the past. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 13:58

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