smelled the coffee boiling

Garbuz

Senior Member
Russian
We smelled the coffee boiling and hurried to the kitchen.

1) Is it possible to say 'smell <something> boiling'? (I know we usually say smell <domething> burning)

2) Is it 'coffee' or 'the coffee'? The idea is 'the pot of coffee we had put on the stove'.
 
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  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I would say "the coffee" in this case because you know it's your coffee and you know you left it on a lit stove. (If you walked into a restaurant, you might say "coffee" without the article.)

    And I think you can say "You smelled the coffee boiling" because there would be alarm in your voice and you might even hear it as it boiled over and hit the hot stove.
     

    djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    At any rate in the UK one does not normally talk about coffee boiling unless it is boiling over, but rather that it is brewing. Tea is prepared rather differently but that is also brewed.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    We smelled the coffee boiling and hurried to the kitchen.

    1) Is it possible to say 'smell sth boiling'? (I know we usually say smell sth burning)

    2) Is it 'coffee' or 'the coffee'? The idea is 'the pot of coffee we had put on the stove'.
    For many years coffee in the US was prepared in a percolator, a device which boils coffee for a few minutes. So it would not at all be unusual in the past to speak of coffee boiling which was not boiling over, as you can tell from doing a search in Google Books for "smelled the coffee boiling."

    Whether the persons in the passage you cite hurried to the kitchen because coffee was boiling over or did so because they were eager to drink freshly made coffee depends upon the context.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    We smelled the coffee boiling and hurried to the kitchen.

    1) Is it possible to say 'smell <something> boiling'? (I know we usually say smell <domething> burning)

    2) Is it 'coffee' or 'the coffee'? The idea is 'the pot of coffee we had put on the stove'.
    Hello, Garbuz. As you can tell from the other posts, it's common enough to say that we "smell something boiling" in English. To answer your second question, I'd say that "the coffee" would be used more often than "coffee" in a sentence like "I could smell the coffee boiling." I suppose the definite article is used here to distinguish the coffee on the stove from all other coffee.
     
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