a bad smell on my breath

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JunJiBoy

Senior Member
USA
Cantonese
Hello, dear friends:
Yesterday I saw this sentence:
"He was aware of the stink of stale beer on his breath."
I thought it should have been "in his breath", so I ignored it.

But today I saw a video on Youtube and heard this:
"It causes a sickeningly sweet aroma sorta like decomposing apples on your breath."

What a coinkydink!
Can you tell me why it isn't "in your breath"?? That's what I grew up with.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "On your breath" is an ordinary phrase. "In your breath" is strange.

    There is often no particular reason behind the use of one preposition or another in some phrase. I suppose "on your breath" implies that your breath carries the smell of alcohol, etc. toward the speaker: I smell alcohol on your breath.

    When I hear "on your/his, etc breath", the phrase usually refers to alcohol or tobacco. In language about other strong odors, people generally use some other construction: He has garlic breath/garlicky breath. Or: Her breath smells bad/like onions.
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Please see this previous discussion, which concerns precisely what you are asking:

    in/on his breath

    ("In your breath" is not English because we don't say it. I sincerely doubt that you "grew up with it" in a native English-speaking environment.)
     

    JunJiBoy

    Senior Member
    USA
    Cantonese
    Ok, I'd like to point out that I didn't grow up with it, but in fact I've been saying it wrong, and no one has ever corrected me on this.

    What if I tell someone that the smell is not from the breath?
    Such as:
    "There's a foul smell on that smoker" may sound legit, but "There's a foul smell on the smoke he breathed out"??
    In this case, is the smell in the smoke, or on?
    I'd use "in", what do you think??
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "There's a foul smell on the smoke he breathed out"??
    I wouldn't use this sentence. I'd probably say "That smoke stinks."

    In this case, is the smell in the smoke, or on?
    I'd use "in", what do you think??
    In this case, it would be normal to say that the smoke stinks. Talk of an odor "in" or "on" the smoke would be strange.
     

    JunJiBoy

    Senior Member
    USA
    Cantonese
    Now let's assume several guys are smoking some kind of newly invented cigars, which are made of many spices and herbs.
    One of them breathed out this smoke and someone picks up the smell.
    "There's a rosemary smell on the smoke you blew out"??
     
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    JunJiBoy

    Senior Member
    USA
    Cantonese
    There's a rosemary smell on the smoke you blew out??
    That sounds like I'm stoned or high or something, we might need some smokers to explain this.
    SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH, everyone!
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH, everyone!
    People already know this, JunJiBoy, so you probably don't need to remind us.

    That sounds like I'm stoned or high or something, we might need some smokers to explain this.
    I used to smoke, and I don't think your sentence implies that you are high. It just sounds like an odd thing to say.
     
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