At first sight he couldn't mull exactly about which sort of noise he heard, but he could swear that it wasn't made by the wind.

What word can replace sight, to match better with noise?

At first moment he couldn't mull exactly about which sort of noise he heard, but he could swear that it wasn't made by the wind.

Which is better?

  • 4
    You don't need any word, as you already mention 'noise' later in the sentence. It is enough just to say "At first he couldn't...". You should also change 'mull', which is not used correctly here. 'Mull over' means 'think about/consider' and would usually be used in a positive - " He mulled over the events of the day" - not a negative "He couldn't mull". 'To mull' (without 'over') is a way of heating wine with spices.
    – Mynamite
    Jan 21, 2015 at 16:58
  • @Mynamite - You should copy and paste your comment into an answer.
    – Adam
    Jan 21, 2015 at 21:23
  • @Mynamite Thank you! But which word would fit better in "Mull" place?
    – Hachimana
    Jan 21, 2015 at 21:46
  • 1
    You probably want tell in place of mull. Although it is the sixth definition here: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tell , that usage of tell is very common.
    – Adam
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:19
  • @Hachimana Decide would also make sense here if there were a particular set of sounds that he might have heard. Jan 22, 2015 at 2:29

2 Answers 2


At first he couldn't (make out|resolve) exactly what sort of noise he heard, but he could swear that it wasn't made by the wind.

At first is fine by itself, mull is probably not the right word here, and I'd replace about which with what.


"Which is better?" is subjective. Are you trying for a literary prose, or to make the most amount of sense?

If, to make the most amount of sense, one would say:

Upon looking, he couldn't tell where the sound came from, but he knew it wasn't the wind.

To keep your similar sentence structure you could use glance and simplify:

At first glance, he couldn't see the cause of the sound he had heard, but he could swear that it wasn't the wind.

If trying to be artistic in your prose (while keeping the structure similar), one could say:

At first glance, he* couldn't suss the root of the noise he had heard, but (he) could swear that it wasn't made by the wind.

and the point would be more clear than your original sentence. Keeping or leaving out the last he in the sentence doesn't change the meaning.

*Some might say it would be best to use a name here instead of the first pronoun in literary prose.

Side note: In English, it is an awkward way of speech to try and find out what kind (sort) of noise was made. All noise and sound comes from a source and we infer the 'kind' by the source. The sound from an elephant is an elephant sound, but to say it was an elephant 'kind' of sound w/o knowing the source is the same as saying the unknown source made a sound like an elephant. So, in this instance, it is better to say he couldn't find the source of the sound, than it is for him to try and sort out what kind of sound he had heard.

  • That is all correct, but doesn't answer the question, which was: what is a better word to replace "sight" to match better with "noise". I think that the issue here is the missmatch between the visual sense implied by sight, and the auditory stimulus implied by noise. Your answer just gives more subtle words for a visual sense (e.g. glance) rather than changing sense modes to something more appropriate.
    – brendan
    Jan 27, 2015 at 4:54

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