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Why is it that "Nächstes Mal" can have so many different variations on the "nächste" word?

If I'm not mistaken, all of the below are correct:

Nächste Mal.
- I think there is an article missing. From the ending I take it should be "die", but that does not fit with "Mal" which is neuter and should have "das".

Bis zum nächsten Mal
- which implies dativ der (dem) derived from the zu dem.

Nächstes Mal.

Can someone explain?

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Welcome to German Language! Your question is a little chaotic. A little very chaotic. For one, the word "Nächte" means "nights", what you probably mean is "Nächste" ("next"). Also AFAIK (german native) "Nächster Mal" doesn't exist.. –  Vogel612 Jul 17 at 11:34
    
I took the liberty to edit your question according to what I could make of it. If you disagree, you can apply a rollback in the revisions –  Vogel612 Jul 17 at 11:41
2  
@Vogel612 "Nächster Mal- und Bastelkurs" :p –  Em1 Jul 17 at 13:35

2 Answers 2

The answer for the first two examples is quite simple: "Mal" is neuter and the article missing thus is

das nächste Mal.

Since the dative forms of der and das are identical, this also accounts for

bis zum nächsten Mal!

which grammatically splits up as bis zu dem nächsten Mal.

Now your third case is a little more tricky. In German there is a strong and a weak declension for adjectives. Since in your example the adjective stands without an article next to the noun, it takes the strong declension, this being -es for neuter adjectives in nominative/accusative. The first two cases are examples of weak declension.

Maybe for additional information: with an indefinite article or something equal, the adjective takes the mixed declension.

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All adjectives can have several different endings - it's because of the German declension.
Here are the parallel constructions with a green sign:

das nächste Mal  /  das grüne Schild

Weak declension, nominative, neuter.

bis zum nächsten Mal  /  bis zu dem grünen Schild

Weak declension, dative (comes after "bis zum").

nächstes Mal  /  grünes Schild

Strong declension, nominative.

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According to the link you sent, Strong declension is used when there is no preceding article., yet the sentance nächste mal can, I believe, also be considered correct and has no article (and since there is no article is should follow strong declension and be nächstes mal). Can you explain? –  cog Jul 17 at 20:19
    
@cog simple answer.. the sentence is not correct. I am sorry to disappoint you, but that sentence you provided as a "correct" counterexample is simply not correct :/ –  Vogel612 Jul 17 at 23:42
    
@cog To the question "Wann übernachtest du endlich bei mir?" "Nächste Mal" is not a possible answer. Is that what you mean? –  Grantwalzer Jul 18 at 4:57
    
Let's use another example to make it easier to explain. Let's say rather than Mal we have Wochenende. Both are neuter and as such the same rules regarding article declension apply. Let us say someone asks Wann kommst du das nächste Mal?. Would all three Nächste Wochenende, Nächstes Wochenende and Das nächste Wochenende be considered correct? Is the first option something that has become 'accepted' but is not proper German (since there is no article it should follow the strong declension rules which it doesn't)? –  cog Jul 18 at 16:20
    
Only the last two are standard language. And I don't think there's a dialect where "nächste Wochenende" would be possible. –  Grantwalzer Jul 18 at 18:51

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