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I usually hear

Wir bleiben in Kontakt.

rather than

Wir bleiben im Kontakt.

and also

in Zukunft

rather than

in der Zukunft

Is there a reason why these words are not used with a definite article? Can we tell in general when not to use a definite article, or are these just specific phrases?

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"in Kontakt" is the correct form according to the Duden. Although both versions are used in common speech. – Victor In Jun 5 '14 at 12:20
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In Zukunft is used in the meaning of from now while in der Zukunft literally means in the future.

Bitte benutze in Zukunft das Auto. → Please use the car from now.

In der Zukunft werden unsere Autos fliegen. → In the future our cars will fly.

So in der Zukunft is rather used to express a long-term prediction (even if they predicted flying cars to exist next year in Back to the Future II).

Unfortunately I don’t know how to give a clear example for the case of in/im Kontakt.

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Both expressions are simply fixed collocations. "In der Zukunft" is not wrong, it's just used differently:

Darüber habe ich mir noch keine Gedanken gemacht. Das liegt noch so weit in der Zukunft.

In der Zukunft werden Roboter den Menschen immer mehr gefährliche Arbeiten abnehmen.

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but in your second example, "In der Zukunft" can be replaced with "In Zukunft". In your first example, it cannot be replaced.. – christian.s Jun 5 '14 at 6:45
Yes, but the meaning changes, much as with "in future" and "in the future". – Ingmar Jun 5 '14 at 7:22
does it? It can be translated in another way, but I think the quintessence remains.. – christian.s Jun 5 '14 at 7:24
@christian.s In the second example, the meaning changes. In der Zukunft werden Roboter... means that sometime in the future, robots will do something. In Zukunft werden Roboter ... has the connotation that from now on robots will do something. – Thorsten Dittmar Jun 5 '14 at 8:59
@ThorstenDittmar Not necessarily from right now but soon. Context will clarify. – Em1 Jun 5 '14 at 9:34

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