Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you have a favorite perfume that you love the scent of?

Are there certain smells that make you feel good or bad?

If you’re like most people then you probably have some significant memories based on your sense of smell.

Today we’re going to talk about this sense, the difference between smell and scent, and how you can talk about all of this in conversation.

Get Your Transcripts Today!

Make sure you understand every word you hear on All Ears English.

Bring your English to the advanced level with new vocabulary and natural expressions.

Subscribe and get the transcripts delivered by email.

Learn to speak naturally with the American accent.

Click here to subscribe and save 50%

Understanding Smell vs. Scent

What are your favorite smells?

Can you think of a smell that takes you back to a certain point in time?

Smell can be a very powerful thing, and therefore it can come up in conversation quite a bit.

What is the difference between the word smell and scent?

They are very similar, and so you might be confused as to which one is which!

You can generally think of smell as being good or bad, while you might think of scent as being good and almost more pleasant or flowery.

This may seem hard to distinguish but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some examples so you can see firsthand how these two are typically used in conversation.

  • You can likely visualize the smell of dinner cooking in the kitchen
  • You may recognize the scent of the perfume. You would use scent to talk about a perfume, and you could say something like “What scent are you wearing?”
  • You may have a familiarity with a certain smell, so you may say something like “I love the smell of freshly cut grass/bread/etc.”
  • You may recognize somebody by their scent because it is one that you are used to, and this works well to describe a person in particular
  • You may have a pleasant experience tied to a certain scent, and it may make you smile. You could say “The scent reminded me of my childhood.”

These all work well when you want to differentiate between scent and smell.

These examples can help you to see which one works best, and can hopefully give you the confidence to start using them in conversation.

The Power of Your Sense of Smell

Today we are going to talk more about this because it’s such a common conversation topic.

You may have heard that smell is the most powerful sense that is associated with memory.

If you have lived through this then you know firsthand that a certain smell can take you back to a moment in time.

Think of a smell that takes you back to your childhood and it can practically transport you there.

Think of a smell that is either good or bad to you, and it can take you back to that moment in time.

There are some smells that are universal in that people recognize and relate to them such as coffee brewing, freshly cut grass, flowers, or even a new car.

What smells do you remember?

Are there some smells that are really good to you?

Perhaps you like the scent of a certain perfume or a campfire because it makes you happy.

Are there some smells that are bad to you?

Maybe you hate the smell of gasoline or body odor coming off of somebody.

Some smells are unpleasant to everyone, and some may be good to some and not to others.

This is indeed a powerful sense, and one that you want to pay attention to as it can bring back some memories.

Good Words For Smell

Now that you understand the difference, you can see that you’re going to talk about smell quite a bit.

There are other words for smell that work quite well, and it can be great to use each of them in the right conversation.

  • Odor: This is usually a bit stronger than saying just smell. It may be a stronger smell or something really foul and off putting. You could say “There was a foul odor coming from the vent. It was a dead rat.”
  • To stink up: This usually means that the smell has permeated and spread further. Whatever the source of the smell is, it’s lingering and carrying over into the space it is within. You might hear “He stunk up the place when he microwaved the popcorn for too long.”
  • Reek: This is another really foul type of smell and a bit more extreme. You can almost get a feel for just how bad the smell is when you use this word. So you might hear “Ugh, your feet reek! You need to wash them!”
  • Get a whiff of something: It’s as if the smell suddenly comes to you and you pick up on it quickly. You suddenly smell something, almost out of nowhere. It can often be used with a positive or good smell. You might say “Oh my gosh, that smells delicious. I got a whiff of it as soon as I walked through the door.”
  • Aroma: This is another word usually saved for a good smell. It comes to you and it is enticing and can smell delicious. You can even visualize tasting it if it’s the aroma of a food. You might say something like “There was an aroma in the room. My dad was making brownies.”

All of these words and phrases work quite well to describe smell in a different way.

You can use a few words such as potent, strong, foul, and even sweet to describe stronger smells.

This is such a part of life as you smell everything around you, and so these worse and phrases are important to know.

Roleplay To Help

A roleplay can always help, and in this one, Lindsay and Michelle are at home and they smell something.

Lindsay: “What’s that smell?”

Michelle: “Ugh, I think Paul is stinking up the place with his cooking.” 

Lindsay: “You’re right. It’s really potent. Did you just take off your shoes? Your feet reek!”

Michelle: “Ugh! Sorry! Oh wow, that odor is really getting bad. I’ll talk to him.” 

Lindsay: “I got a new perfume today.” 

Michelle: “Oh what scent?”

Lindsay: “Dried roses in spring.”

Michelle: “Nice.”


We gave you some fun, silly ways to talk about smell.

You’ll be surprised at just how often this comes up in conversation, so it’s a great topic to be informed about.

These can be good connection topics and good conversation starters.

Try using one of these in conversation, and see how they can make things interesting and even a little fun.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X