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  1. This takes less time than that.
  2. This takes a shorter time than that.

Why is 'a' necessary is the second and not the first example?

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Time as a phenomenon is infinite and indivisible. Like sugar. "How many tons of sugar would you need to sweeten an entire lake?" No article.

A time, as a unit, is divisible and countable. "How many sugars do you take with your coffee? Add another sugar, please." An article is required.

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