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Published by at March 21st, 2024 , Revised On March 26, 2024

Smelled Vs Smelt: Differences & Examples

The world of verbs can be a tricky place, especially when it comes to irregular verbs. “Smell,” a verb denoting the act of detecting an odour or having a particular scent, presents one such conundrum.  When discussing the past tense or past participle, you might encounter “smelled” and “smelt.” But which one is correct, and when should you use them? This blog will answer this. 

Verb FormPast tense of “smell”Past tense of “smell”
ExamplesThe flowers smelled delightful.The metal smelt of iron.
I smelled the cookies baking.He smelt the aroma of coffee.
She smelled smoke in the air.The fisherman smelt the sea.
He smelled the perfume labelled vanilla.They smelt the flowers.

US Vs Australia

The key to understanding “smelled” vs. “smelt” lies in dialect. Here’s a breakdown of how these terms are used across the pond:

  • American English: In the United States and Canada, “smelled” reigns supreme. It’s the standard past tense and past participle conjugation for “smell.”

Example: “I smelled the delicious cookies baking in the oven.

  • Australian English: Across the Atlantic, things get a bit more flexible. Both “smelled” and “smelt” are considered grammatically correct. The choice often boils down to personal preference or regional dialect.

Example: “The flowers smelled/ smelt wonderful in the vase.


While “smelt” primarily functions as the past tense of “smell” in Australian English, it has a couple of other interesting uses:

  • Noun: Believe it or not, “smelt” can also be a noun referring to a small, silvery fish found in freshwater and saltwater.
  • Verb (Metalworking):  In metalworking, “smelt” points towards the process of extracting a metal from its ore by heating it until it melts.

So, the next time you encounter “smelt” in a sentence, consider the context to determine its meaning.

In today’s interconnected world, where communication transcends borders, “smelled” emerges as the safer option. Here is why:

  • Wider Recognition:  “Smelled” is universally recognised as the past tense of “smell” in most English dialects.
  • Reduced Ambiguity:  Sticking with “smelled” eliminates any potential confusion about the intended meaning, especially in formal writing or communication.

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Examples Of Smelled Vs Smelt

Smelled Smelt
She smelled the flowers in the colourful garden. The fish smelt foul.
He smelled something burning in the oven. She smelt the aroma of freshly baked bread.
The room smelled of fresh paint. The air smelt of the sea.
They smelled sulfur in the factory. The metal was smelted in the furnace.
The victory smelled of success. The deal smelt like trouble.

Frequently Asked Questions

Both “smelt” and “smelled” are correct past tense forms of the verb “smell.” The choice between them depends on regional variations and context. “Smelled” is more common in American English, while “smelt” is more prevalent in Australian English, especially in the sense of metal extraction. Both are widely understood.

In Australia, both “smelt” and “smelled” are used, but “smelled” is more common in everyday language. However, “smelt” is occasionally used, especially in the context of the industrial process of extracting metal from its ore. Overall, both forms are widely understood and accepted in Australian English.

The word “smelt” can be used as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it refers to the past tense of “smell,” indicating the act of perceiving odours. It can also denote the process of extracting metal from its ore. As a noun, it refers to a small, silvery fish.

“Smelled” is a past tense verb form of the word “smell.” It functions as the past simple tense of the verb, indicating that the action of smelling occurred in the past. Specifically, “smelled” is the past tense form used in American English, while “smelt” is more common in British English.

In Oxford English, both “smelled” and “smelt” are accepted and widely used past tense forms of the verb “smell.” However, “smelled” is more commonly used in American English, while “smelt” is more prevalent in British English. Both forms are considered correct and interchangeable in Oxford English.

“After the rain, the earthy scent of wet soil smelt refreshing and invigorating as I took a deep breath, reminding me of the beauty of nature’s renewal.”