I read this sentence on this image :

She smelled of sun and daisies with a hint of river water.

I don't get at all why do we say "She smelled of", why is there "of" after smelled ? Couldn't we get rid of that ?
My other question is about "a hint", although I think that I understand what it means, I would appreciate to have the opinion of you guys.

  • I'd probably wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer - this encourages other people to answer, which might result in a better answer than mine!
    – jimsug
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:30
  • @jimsug Ok I'll to it next time. Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:34
  • It may help you to note that this use of hint is simply a metaphorical extension from the more "literal" sense hint = clue, suggestion, implication, slight indication, etc. Although it can be "translated" / paraphrased as a small amount here, that's not really what the word "means". Much the same applies to trace, which is synonymous in OP's context (but "literally" refers to the trail, vestiges, marks, footprints left by something that passed through). Commented May 28, 2014 at 21:16

3 Answers 3

  • Smelling something means you're doing the smelling, and the thing you're smelling is something.
  • Smelling of something means that you smell, and what you smell like is something

She smelled of ...

She smelled like

... sun and daisies with a hint of river water.

With a small amount of river water


hint (3)

a small amount; trace


There is a marked difference between smelling something and smelling of something.

If you "smell" sun and daisies - you detect the odor of sun and daisies. If you "smell of" sun and daisies - you emit the odor of sun and daisies. Others around you will "smell" sun and daisies.

Alternative wordings could be "smell like" or "smell similar to".

When referring to smell a "hint" of something means that scent (or as in this case aspect of the scent) is faint.

  • Thank you ! Unfortunately, although I now understand the difference between "smelling something" and "smelling of something" I still don't understand what you mean about the hint ! Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:19
  • You mentioned you thought you understood what it meant; could you elaborate on what you thought/think it was? If you're close it might be easier to explain from there.
    – Alexander
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:21
  • In fact as jmsung told, I was thinking that it was "a small amount", so I was right ! Thank you ! Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:22

Others have answered the "smell of" part.

When you say "a hint of X", you mean just a small amount of X, or that X is there but difficult to detect. Like if you said, "This cake contains a hint of chocolate", that means that it is NOT a chocolate cake, but there is a small amount of the taste of chocolate to it. Or I heard a politician just recently say that "there is not a hint of corruption" in his actions. He means, there is not the smallest, tiniest amount of corruption.

Note that this sentence is not literal. She might smell like daisies, but she probably does not literally smell like the sun. I don't think river water really has a distinctive smell, either. It's all a poetic way to say that she reminds one of pleasant things from nature.

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