1

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 ...

1

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.

  • 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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