Do you like <the><a> smell of coffee?

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Allegro molto

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello

Do you like the smell of coffee?
(from a dictionary)

Is “Do you like a smell of coffee?” possible? If possible, how is it different from the original sentence, please?

Thank you
 
  • dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't think I would ever say "Do you like a smell of coffee?". We're talking about a specific "smell" (characteristic of coffee) in this situation. You could, however, say something like:

    There was a smell of coffee floating in the air.
    (non-specific smell, more of a feeling/sensation)
     

    Allegro molto

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Hello, dn88
    Thank you very much for your reply

    On the web, it gives only one example of “a smell of” in the form of “Do you like a smell of rubber, …?” as the below.

    THE WEB MAGAZINE FOR TOP MANAGERS
    Planning the weekend around the globe (7)
    August 3 - 5, 2007
    Europe, Hungary
    Are you a lover of fast cars? I mean very, very fast? Do you like a smell of rubber, loud noise, race in circles, beautiful girls, and adrenaline...? O, yeah! This is event just for you! We are talking about Formula 1, if you still have some doubt. Formula 1 makes its annual visit to Eastern Europe with the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring. ….
    (http://www.poandpo.com/places-to-go/planning-the-weekend-around-the-globe-7/)

    Thank you
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    THE WEB MAGAZINE FOR TOP MANAGERS
    Planning the weekend around the globe (7)
    August 3 - 5, 2007
    Europe, Hungary
    Are you a lover of fast cars? I mean very, very fast? Do you like a smell of rubber, loud noise, race in circles, beautiful girls, and adrenaline...? O, yeah! This is event just for you! We are talking about Formula 1, if you still have some doubt. Formula 1 makes its annual visit to Eastern Europe with the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring. ….
    (http://www.poandpo.com/places-to-go/planning-the-weekend-around-the-globe-7/)

    Thank you
    I think "the smell" would be much more usual there. My initial reaction on reading the original question was that it would always be "the smell". However, on reflection, I think that "a smell" is just about possible - but the meaning is slightly different. Rather than liking the smell in question in general I would interpret "do you like a smell of rubber" as being an unusual way of saying "do you like a whiff of rubber", "a nostril-full of rubber".
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes.

    "the smell of rubber" means "the way rubber smells (in general)"

    "a smell of rubber" could refer to a single instance of "smelling rubber"
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    The excerpt allegro molto quoted has several errors, one of which seems to be "do you like a smell of rubber"? It sounds unnatural since it isn't being used to refer to some particular rubber smell.

    Is it my imagination,or is there a smell of rubber in here? I hate the smell of rubber.:tick:
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I would use "aroma" of coffee. The thing I miss about the demise of the old fashioned percolator was the fact that it filled the entire house with the aroma of coffee. Drip coffee makers do not make that happen.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    The countable noun "a smell" (one odor) is not very common. "An aroma" and "an odor" are much more common countable nouns.

    Usually "smell" is uncountable. In the phrase "The smell of coffee", both "smell" and "coffee" are uncountable nouns.

    "A smell" is a countable noun, which changes the meaning of the sentence.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    You are probably right. By "countable/uncountable" I was trying to show the difference between 2 things:

    [1] "The smell of coffee" = a million similar odors, from a million cups of (30 kinds of) coffee

    [2] "A smell" -- the odor of one cup of coffee (for example, the odor Thomas J. Crane smelled at 8 am on August 29, 2018.)

    Do you like the smell of coffee?
    This sentence is talking about [1] - the odor that most cups of coffee have.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    On the web, it gives only one example of “a smell of” in the form of “Do you like a smell of rubber, …?” as the below.

    Are you a lover of fast cars? I mean very, very fast? Do you like a smell of rubber, loud noise, race in circles, beautiful girls, and adrenaline...?
    This use of “a smell of” is fine in its context (although “race in circles” doesn’t fit the syntax).


    Do you like [an environment in which there’s] a smell of rubber, loud noise, racing in circles, beautiful girls, and adrenaline...? :thumbsup:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Do you like a smell of rubber, loud noise, race in circles, beautiful girls, and adrenaline...? O, yeah! This is event just for you!
    To me that's just mangled English. We understand what they mean, but...:rolleyes:

    "Do you like ... a smell of rubber?"
    "Do you like ... loud noise?"
    "Do you like ... race in circles?"
    "Do you like ... adrenaline?"
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    1 Is it my imagination,or is there A smell of rubber in here? I hate the smell of rubber. :tick:

    2 Is it my imagination,or is there THE smell of rubber in here? I hate the smell of rubber. :cross:

    Right?
    I don't understand why 2 is wrong.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The speaker is giving a list. "Do you like
    (i) a smell of rubber?"
    (ii) loud noise?
    (iii) race in circles? :cross: a race in circles? :tick:
    (iv) adrenaline?"

    The rhetorical implication is that if you can say "yes" to each (at the moment, discrete,) item (and the writer does this by supplying the answer "oh yeah!") then
    This is event just for you!

    Some ellipsis has taken place in order to give the feeling of immediacy.

    Consider
    "Do you like
    (i) a smell of rubber [in the air]
    (ii) [a/ø] loud noise [in your ears]
    (iii) a race [that goes] in circles? :tick:
    (iv) [a rush of] adrenaline?"

    In the above "a" = an instance/example of the.
    I don't understand why 2 is wrong.
    I would find it correct.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    2 Is it my imagination,or is there THE smell of rubber in here? I hate the smell of rubber. :cross:
    I don't understand why 2 is wrong.
    Because in the question "is there <something> here?" or the statement "there is <something> here", the <something> is generally non-specific and therefore requires the indefinite article.

    If you rephrase, you can make it specific and use the definite article. For example: "There's a strange unpleasant smell here. Is it the smell of rubber?"
    Here you first mention "smell" with the indefinite article, and then you can refer to it specifically using the definite article.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    As I see it:

    The functions as a demonstrative adjective. Its noun (or noun phrase) becomes one idea:
    The smell of rubber -> The {smell of rubber} = that {smell of rubber} of which we are all aware

    A/an is a quantifier and indicates one of its immediate noun:
    A smell of rubber -> A smell {of rubber} -> (compare “a rubbery smell”) -> one instance/example of the smell which is that of rubber.
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    Because in the question "is there <something> here?" or the statement "there is <something> here", the <something> is generally non-specific and therefore requires the indefinite article.

    If you rephrase, you can make it specific and use the definite article. For example: "There's a strange unpleasant smell here. Is it the smell of rubber?"
    Here you first mention "smell" with the indefinite article, and then you can refer to it specifically using the definite article.
    Well, why should it be not specific? I don't think that the smell of rubber changes in reality upon the choice of the article. Which means that "a smell of rubber" smells exactly as "the smell of rubber". English over complicates things. :)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Well, why should it be not specific? I don't think that the smell of rubber changes in reality upon the choice of the article.
    It has nothing to do with the rubbery smell. We use the indefinite article because of the "there is" construction. Remember, this "there" is not the adverb of position (i.e. it is not in contrast to here). It's the dummy pronoun, as in meaning 6 in the first list at there - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
     

    Ivan_I

    Banned
    Russian
    It has nothing to do with the rubbery smell. We use the indefinite article because of the "there is" construction. Remember, this "there" is not the adverb of position (i.e. it is not in contrast to here). It's the dummy pronoun, as in meaning 6 in the first list at there - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
    It seems to me that you are saying that "there is the" can't exist. Well, what about this one:

    There was the long drive home, the long drive and the warm dark and the pleasant closeness of the hansom cab .

    The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It seems to me that you are saying that "there is the" can't exist. Well, what about this one:

    There was the long drive home, the long drive and the warm dark and the pleasant closeness of the hansom cab .
    I agree with you and disagree with Edinburgher when he says
    Remember, this "there" is not the adverb of position (i.e. it is not in contrast to here). It's the dummy pronoun, as in meaning 6 in the first list at there - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
    This is wrong. As it is adverbial, there has difficulty functioning as a subject. The distinction made is artificial so as to facilitate teaching. There is only one "there" in English - it means, approximately

    ".........at....................that position"
    Preposition +.............noun phrase..... = modifier

    "If we require an example of a predator, there is the cat." -> "At that position (i.e. the position of an example of a predator) is the cat"

    Look! There is the cat. -> "At that position is the cat"
    Look! The cat is there -> "the cat is at that position."
     
    Last edited:

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    This is wrong. As it is adverbial, there has difficulty functioning as a subject. The distinction made is artificial so as to facilitate teaching. There is only one "there" in English - it means, approximately

    ".........at....................that position"
    But there is ;) also a different usage of "there", namely the one where "there is X" basically means "X exists".
    When we say "There is a rubbery smell in the air.", this there has nothing directly to do with position, it just means the air has a rubbery smell, and in that context we can't change "a" to "the". That's not to say that we can't use the definite article after "there is" in different contexts, where there does function as an adverb of position.
     
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