To a native English speaker, what are, if any, the subtle differences that come with the variation in singular/plural of a noun as well as using a definite article or non-definitive article in an ad or marketing context?

For example, the famous Coca Cola slogan is: A. "The pause that refreshes"

What if this was changed to the following: B. "The pauses that refresh" C. "A pause that refreshes" D. "Pauses that refresh"

I'm not a native speaker, so I cannot tell what are any subtle differences in these four slogans in terms of the message or impression that they make on the reader/viewer of the ad. Can anyone help explain what are any of the subtle differences in meaning between the ad slogans A. B. C. and D.? What does each of them mean differently?

  • In a marketing context, subtle changes like this don't really change the meaning that much. – J.R. Mar 22 '17 at 9:44
  • 2
    Hmmm, I think of it like this: Do you want to drink Coca-Cola, the pause that refreshes or do you want to drink Coca-Cola, a pause (any old pause) that refreshes? After all, there's a reason for the phrase, "the genuine article" :D. – Teacher KSHuang Mar 22 '17 at 11:41

In this context, "the pause" denotes a pause of one particular kind. It implies that there is only one kind of pause quite like it. This particular kind of pause involves drinking Coca-Cola. The slogan implies that drinking a different beverage (such as Pepsi or coffee) would be a different kind of pause, and therefore not refreshing.

Changing "the" to "a", or changing the sentence from singular to plural, destroys the "logic" of the slogan. Either of these changes eliminates the uniqueness of the kind of pause, which undermines the implication that Coca-Cola is necessary to have a "pause that refreshes."


The pause that refreshes

This says that there is one particular pause, and that it refreshes you.

The pauses that refresh

This says that there is one particular set of several pauses, and that they refresh you.

A pause that refreshes

This says that there is one arbitrary pause, and that it refreshes you.

Pauses that refresh

This says that there are many pauses, and that they refresh you.

Although the differences between these four are not super important, as the comments say, I believe that the reason Coca-Cola went for A as opposed to the other three is because A emphasizes that there is one particular pause, and that it is refreshing. It is an advertisement, after all - they want you to buy their product.

B would mean that you can get refreshment from more than one pause - they could have used it, but it implies that you won't finish your Coke in one pause, which may not be a good thing for their marketing.

C has almost the same meaning in this context - it is more a matter of choice, but with "the" instead of "a" it just sounds better.

D is similar to B, but doesn't make much sense in this context.

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