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I thought we should use an article with the noun phrase "adjective + flavor", but I saw the phrase "a dish with unusual flavor" which has no article before "unusual flavor" and so I got interested in why this is so. To find out it, I decided to consider this phrase in more detail:


merriam-webster.com:
(1a) a dish with unusual flavor
my variant with "an":
(1b) a dish with an unusual flavor

What is the difference between (1a) and (1b)?
Is "flavor" in (1a) uncountable?


merriam-webster.com:
(2a) This dish has an unusual flavor.
my variant without "an":
(2b) This dish has unusual flavor.

What is the difference between (2a) and (2b)?
Is "flavor" in (2b) uncountable?

2 Answers 2

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"A dish with unusual flavour" refers to the overall flavour of the dish. Flavour here is uncountable.

"A dish with an unusual flavour" is ambiguous. It could mean the same as the first sentence (and so uncountable) but could also refer to a single element of the flavour (and so countable). "A dish with many unusual flavours" clearly has the second meaning, albeit refering to more than one flavour.

Same applies to 2a and 2b. They could mean the same, but 2a could refer to a specific element of the flavour (and so be countable).

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  • 1
    +1 And to correct that "an unusual flavour" cannot be uncountable because it has the article "an". This happens because the overall flavour of a dish can be referred to either countably or uncountably. Source: OALD, definitions 1 and 2. This small issue doesn't detract from the actual answer, which is correct.
    – gotube
    Oct 9, 2023 at 20:54
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The minimal difference:

  • "a dish with unusual flavor": Using "with" is usually for that you already know that the dish has this flavour (e.g. it was written in the menu when you ordered it).

    For this sentence, when you make it plural, it would be uncountable:

    A dish with much unusual flavors.

  • "This dish has an unusual flavour": Using "has" is usually for that you tasted unexpected and unusual flavour without knowing beforehand.

    For this sentence, you could make it plural and it would be countable:

    This dish has many unusual flavors.

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