can please somebody tell me if I should use the article "a" in this sentence?

It is an expression that has different meaning than ...

It is an expression that has "A" different meaning than ...


We can choose whether to include the article in, for example,...

1: His words have meaning.
2: His words have a meaning.

There's not much difference between the two possibilities above, but arguably in some contexts #1 might be considered more "generic" (perhaps his words convey different meanings to different readers, and/or have multiple meanings for a single reader), where #2 explicitly states that there is only a single meaning involved.

But once we introduce the qualifier different meaning, we'd normally either have to pluralise the noun or include the article...

3: His words have different meanings for you and me.
4: His words have a different meaning for you and me.

...where #1 implies that you understand his words to mean one thing, whereas I understand them to mean something else. But #2 implies we both perceive the same meaning (which is different to some other contextually-relevant meaning; perhaps the one shared by everyone else except us).

That's how it works with the adjective different. But with other adjectives it might not be the same.

5: Hand gestures do not have obvious meaning.
6: This text does not have an obvious meaning.

I suspect many people would prefer to pluralise #5 anyway (in line with the principle outlined above; multiple meanings are contextually implicit). But the four words highlighted in #5 returned over 100 hits in Google Books; it is used quite naturally in certain contexts.

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  • Interestingly, the positively phrased version of 5, is something like "hand gestures appear meaningless." – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Apr 15 '18 at 17:46

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