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Following sentence is from an email template that goes out to our customers.

"We will hold the slot for the next 5 minutes"

One of the customers said that the sentence should be:

"We will hold the slot for next 5 minutes"

Which is the right one to use in an email ?

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    I would fail to explain it as well, because the first sentence seems right, and the second - wrong to me :) – Vilmar Dec 15 '14 at 8:48
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    Can you explain why you are sure that there is a mistake in 'We will hold the slot for the next 5 minutes'? To my ears, for normal conversational English, never mind formal written English, you've got the right/wrong judgement the wrong way round (though dropping articles in headlinese is quite common). Your use of 'explain others' and the following comma is also unacceptable, and for many anglophones 'request you guys to' is strange. You may find another question-and-answer site more appropriate (ELU being intended for 'linguists ...'). – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '14 at 8:50
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    The first one is right in British English. I'm guessing you might be asking about Indian English though? – A E Dec 15 '14 at 10:22
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    @AE I didn't know there is something like "Indian English". Our computers are defaulted to US English. Our school text books have British English. :) – Venkat Kotra Dec 15 '14 at 16:17
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    Just read Indian newspapers, and you'll discover there's Indian English(es). – pazzo Dec 15 '14 at 17:38
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Of interest:

We will save this spot for next time.

We will save this spot for the next time.

We will save this spot for the next five minutes.

All of the above are correct, with the subtle difference of the first two being reasonably meshed for native ears.

As usual, context is key, and the more words added, as well as the type of phrase, means a great deal to whether the article is necessary. In this case, the article the is necessary because it denotes a specific and unique interval of time.

We will save this spot for 5 minutes.

This would indicate an arbitrary time period.

We will save this spot for the next 5 minutes.

This is a specific time period.

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For British and American English the first sentence is correct. I'm not versed in the grammar of Indian English so I have no idea there.

The reason for the 'the' there is that anytime you have a similar phrase without 'the' (for example, "we will remember this for next time" -- not "the next time"), this is conversational English, not formal. To many speakers this makes it sound like perhaps this construction is possible with other combinations of words as well, even when it isn't. That said, it's also a construction that is often seen in Indian speakers of English, which is why I think it may be a feature of the grammar. It could also be interference from Hindi, which perhaps handles definite articles differently.

  • But "we will remember this for next time" sounds fine in all but the most formal of registers while "we will hold the slot for next 5 minutes" sounds outlandish in conversation, headlinese; the distribution of the definite article in English is very hard to fully explain. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '14 at 16:02
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Well, first of all (in reply to your comment) there definitely is such a thing as "Indian English" - even if Microsoft don't know about it! :)

Take a look at Wikipedia: Indian English to start with.

In this article from the British Library, we can see that one way in which Indian English differs from British English is the way in which it handles the definite article:

Feature: zero article

Explanation: the indefinite article, a or an, or the definite article, the, are often omitted

Example: and then, uh, there was, uh, no fear of going to an Indian restaurants and sending your suit for a dry-cleaning _ next day, because they were well-ventilated etcetera and I’m, I’m very pleased that Indian food has come _ long way

Those underscore '_' marks show where the article ('the' or 'a') has been omitted, in the example spoken sentence. The website has an audio recording of a native speaker saying that sentence.

So although "We will hold the slot for the next 5 minutes" would be normal usage in written British English, "We will hold the slot for next 5 minutes" could well be more usual in Indian English. The choice may come down to what kind of impression you want to give your customers - you'd be more familiar than me with the social ramifications of using a more British/American style of English as opposed to a more Indian style, I'm sure.

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