I couldn't find it in any dictionary. Google News didn't help me. 'Make air' (by analogy with 'make an impression') would sound comical. 'Have' doesn't have the meaning I seek to convey. So what verb to use with 'respectable/pompous etc air'?

  • 1
    It's usually just have a respectable air. If you want a more "active" verb, perhaps present / adopt / assume / give out/off an air of respectability. Or even exude. Dec 6 '19 at 13:54
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica Why 'have a respectable air' but not 'give out a respectable air'? Dec 6 '19 at 13:56
  • Oxford Dictionaries say that you can 'emanate an [adjective] air' (which surprised me, as I've always associated emanate with something like warmth or a smell). Dec 6 '19 at 17:04
  • I agree with Fumble Fingers: has a respectable air. The problem with give off is that it is associated with odors, usually unpleasant. . So, if you "give off a respectable air", that could be rather sarcastic.
    – Lambie
    Dec 6 '19 at 20:26
  • Does the Lexico entry justify my word choice? Dec 7 '19 at 2:43

A casual phrasing:

He gives off an air of confidence

Something fancier:

He exudes an air of confidence


Something I think is worth mentioning is that I'm not sure the whole "air of" phrasing works well with "respect". To say someone gives off/exudes an "air of respect" or a "respectable air" sounds more like a weird way of saying that someone is very respectful. But I'm guessing you mean that the person has a sort of aura about them that makes everyone else respect them. In that case you can say:

He commands respect

To "command" respect implies that you comport yourself in such a way that others feel compelled to treat you with respect, as opposed to just insisting that everyone respect you automatically ("demand respect").

  • gives off is like a smell, in my view.
    – Lambie
    Dec 6 '19 at 20:29
  • 1) What about my suggestions? 2) Why can't I use an adjective? Dec 7 '19 at 2:41
  • @SergeyZolotarev 1a.) I don't think "give out" works because that suggests actively handing something out, but air, especially in this metaphorical sense, isn't tangible like that. The air comes from the person passively; the person doesn't actively give it out. 1b.) Merriam Webster says emanate could work, though for me personally it sounds weird. I don't hear the transitive use of emanate very often. 2.) You can use an adjective, but my instinct is that "air of ____" is the more common construction than "____-able air".
    – cjl750
    Dec 7 '19 at 23:49

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