Is It Smelled or Smelt? | Spelling, Difference & Examples

UK vs US updated on  January 9, 2024 3 min read
Smelled and smelt are two ways of spelling the past tense of the verb “smell,” which means “to produce an odor” or “to detect something’s scent.” The spelling depends on the variant of English you use.

  • In American English, “smelled” is standard.
  • In British English, “smelled” and “smelt” are both used.
It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Smelled or smelt in a sentence
The books I found in the attic smelled/smelt musty.
The burned food smelled/smelt so bad!
The dog smelled/smelt something interesting and ran off into the woods.

Other uses of smelt

Smelt is not just the past tense form of the verb “smell.” It’s also:

  • The present tense or infinitive form of the verb “to smelt,” meaning “to melt ore to extract metal from it.”
  • A noun to refer to a specific type of small fish.

Examples: Smelt in a sentence
You need a blast furnace to smelt copper or other metals.
Smelts are found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

Smell as a regular or irregular verb

Smell can be considered either an irregular verb or a regular verb, depending on the chosen spelling of the past tense form.

  • Verbs that form their past tense by adding “-ed” are regular verbs.
  • Verbs that form their past tense by adding a different suffix are irregular verbs.
Where there’s a choice between regular and irregular, the irregular forms are more common in British English. Other examples include dreamed or dreamt, kneeled or knelt, smelled or smelt, spelt or spelled, burnt or burned, and learnt or learned.

Main differences between American and British English

American and British English are very similar, but there are a few main differences in spelling. Five important differences are:

Difference

Rule

Examples

-or vs -our

In American English, many Latin-derived words end in -or.

In British English, these same words end in -our.

Behavior or behaviour
Labor or labour
Favor or favour
Favorite or favourite
Color or colour
Honor or honour

-er vs -re

In American English, some French, Latin, or Greek words end in -er.

In British English, these same words end in -re.

Theater or theatre
Center or centre
Meter or metre
Liter or litre
Saber or sabre
Fiber or fibre

-ize vs -ise

In American English, many Greek-derived words end in -yze or -ize.

In British English, these words end in -yse or -ise.

Realize or realise
Recognize or recognise
Analyze or analyse
Organisation or organization
Minimize or minimise
Finalize or finalise

-ed vs -t

In American English, most verbs are regular and form their past tense with the suffix -ed.

In British English, some of these verbs are irregular and form their past tense with the suffix -t.

Learned or learnt
Burned or burnt
Kneeled or knelt
Dreamed or dreamt
Smelled or smelt
Spelled or spelt

Single vs double consonant

In American English, many words are spelled with a single consonant.

In British English, these same words are spelled with a double consonant.

Modeling or modelling
Traveling or travelling
Canceled or cancelled
Labeled or labelled
Buses or busses
Focused or focussed

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, rhetorical devices, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Common mistakes

Commonly confused words

Rhetoric

Whoa or woah

Advisor vs adviser

Metonymy

Theirs or their's

Accept vs except

Synecdoche

Ours or our's

Affect vs effect

Verbal irony

Forty or fourty

Among vs between

Irony

Sence or sense

Anymore vs any more

Grawlix


Frequently asked questions about smelled or smelt

Is the past tense of smell smelled or smelt?

Smelled and smelt are two spellings of the same verb. The usage depends on the variant of English.

  • In British English, both “smelt” and “smelled” may be used.
  • In American English, “smelled” is standard.

It´s important to choose one and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it smelled or smelt in Canada?

Smelled and smelt are two spellings of the same verb, the past tense of “smell.” Usage depends on the variant of English. In Canada, smelled is the standard spelling, the same as in American English.

It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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