Which is grammatically correct?

  1. Smell of these fresh coffee beans.
  2. Smell these fresh coffee beans. Is it correct to use the preposition “of”?
  • Hello, Sherry, and welcome! What does a dictionary entry on "smell" suggest? Cheers!
    – Conrado
    Jul 21, 2020 at 17:20
  • Please finish reading the tour which should be make it clear that you should be asking questions on English Language Learners.
    – David
    Jul 21, 2020 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


Sherry, while I might tend to agree with the previous two comments in intent, in do not in tone.

“To smell of” something means the object has a similar smell. So “the coffee smells of chocolate” describes how the coffee smells, much like “he looks like a rock star” describer his appearance. In these examples “smell” and “look” are not being used as verbs in the simple sense. I will not get into the minutiae of grammatical terms here, as from your question I suppose that is not relevant.

For your needs “smell this coffee” is correct. Here “smell” is the verb and coffee is the object.

The first sentence literally asks the listener to make themselves have a personal scent similar to that of that particular coffee.

  • I would say that "smell of this coffee" and "taste of this soup" and similar phrases would not be taken literally by any native speaker, that is, they would not think it is a command to "make yourself emit this coffee's odor." They would understand it to be a poetic and/or old-fashioned and/or foreign-language-influenced way of saying "smell this coffee."
    – randomhead
    Jun 24, 2021 at 17:28
  • randomhead, I do not think the asker was trying to be poetic, I think they are asking what is correct. I agree, no native english speaker would take it literally. But that does not make it correct.
    – Patrick
    Jun 25, 2021 at 18:15

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