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What does this expression mean?

"smell about"

Does it mean to take a smell of the surroundings, as if one smelled the inside of a room?

"Smell about the (inside of the) room"

Could I use this to say that a bear's muzzle smelled about the inside of a house where it broke in?

Could I say that the bear's muzzle smelled something as in transitive form?

  • What context did you see this in? – muru Dec 8 '17 at 4:34
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In the UK (and probably elsewhere), about can be a synonym for around.

The bear smelled about the inside of the house

is equivalent to

The bear smelled around the inside of the house

In both cases, the adverb indicates some kind of motion or exploration. The bear perhaps moved its head, trying to smell in different areas. Or maybe the bear actually walked around the house, sniffing the floor, walls, and objects.

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If something has a smell about it, it means that particular item or area has a very distinct odor. For example:

The room has a very nasty smell about it.

Which means that this room smells quite pungent.

The bear smelled the rotting salmon on the beach.

Here the bear is observing the smell. It is the fish that smells, while the bear does the smelling.

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