Which is the right verb to use? Is smelling as a verb strictly connected with air or what fish do is also called smelling?

I ruled out "detect" as it sounds too formal, or is it?


1 Answer 1


Smell not taste is the correct verb because they can sense blood with their nostrils:

  • A shark's primary sense is a keen sense of smell. It can detect one drop of blood in a million drops of water (25 gallons or 100 liters) and can smell blood 0.25 mile (0.4 km) away. Its paired nostrils are on the underside of its snout. Water continually flows through the nostrils, giving the shark olfactory information.

  • Unlike humans, shark nostrils have nothing to do with breathing - they are not even connected to the mouth.

  • Aha, so tasting is connected to their mouth. It makes sense, thank you! Jun 27, 2015 at 13:29
  • 3
    This may be true from a zoology perspective, but, from a language perspective, we could use smell to mean "sense" even if sharks had no nostrils. Fortunately, English is colorful enough to allow us to smell odorless things: You smell a rat, I smell something fishy, she smells something wrong with the data. In other words: "Is smelling as a verb strictly connected with air?" No, it's not – not when it's used figuratively.
    – J.R.
    Jun 27, 2015 at 17:43

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