On the last night or last night

torito

Senior Member
Spain/Spanish
Hello: Someone can tell me the difference between 'On the last night' and 'last night' at the beginning of a sentence?

Thank you.
 
  • SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    They have different meanings:

    On the last night of her vacation, she went to dinner with some friends.

    Last night, she went to dinner with some friends.
     
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    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "Last night" should be able to replace "on the last night" in most contexts. In terms of meaning, the two expressions are similar. Using "on the last night" emphasizes "the last night" as one of a series of nights: We were there for a week. We camped for the first five nights. On the last night we went to a hotel.



    In an example like this, you could also use "the last night" without the preposition: ...The last night we went to a hotel. Using "on" here is just an option.

    Here are two examples of this use from TIME*: Radio came up for discussion at dinner the last night of the conference. The last night after the ransom was paid they killed a turkey and gave me a party. It is common to find adverbial expressions of time being used both with and without prepositions although the use of some preposition is usual with the phrase "the last night".

    *Time Magazine Corpus
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I would be inclined to see more difference between them.

    On the last night refers to the last night of a certain group of nights. It is likely to be a night in the past, though it could be in the future.
    I spent two weeks in Paris. On the last night we went to the most expensive restaurant in Paris.
    We plan to be in Paris for two weeks. On the last night we will go to the most expensive restaurant in Paris.
    Last night refers to the night before the statement is made.
    Last night I was in Paris. Today I am in Rome.
     
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    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    "Last night" should be able to replace "on the last night" in most contexts. In terms of meaning, the two expressions are similar. Using "on the last night" emphasizes "the last night" as one of a series of nights: We were there for a week. We camped for the first five nights. On the last night we went to a hotel.



    In an example like this, you could also use "the last night" without the preposition: ...The last night we went to a hotel. Using "on" here is just an option.

    Here are two examples of this use from TIME*: Radio came up for discussion at dinner the last night of the conference. The last night after the ransom was paid they killed a turkey and gave me a party. It is common to find adverbial expressions of time being used both with and without prepositions although the use of some preposition is usual with the phrase "the last night".

    *Time Magazine Corpus

    Owlman, is the same for 'the last night' applicable to 'last night'? Do the examples from Time not allow for 'on'?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Oh, yes. There are many examples using on: COHA lists 110; COCA, 72; BNC, 18; and TIME had 23. Here are a couple of examples from TIME:

    On the last night of their vacation, her suitcase arrived like a joke.
    Honeyboy Edwards was at Robert Johnson's side on the last night of his life.


    I personally think "on the last night" sounds more common when "the last night" is being used adverbially to modify something that somebody does. As Cagey noted, "last night" without the article is also common as an adverbial: You should have seen him last night.
     
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