smell the bread bake

kis2337 posted:

I can smell the bread _______ .

a. bake
b. baked
c. baking

Are they all correct?
What are the differences?

Hi, Kis,

If the question were "What is the most natural choice in the absence of context or in a default likely context?," the correct answer would be (c): "I can smell the bread baking." Here "can smell" means that you do smell it.

Although "the bread baking" could contain a reduced relative clause ("the bread that is baking"), the most natural interpretation is that "smell" is being used with its perceptual-verb pattern, whereby you smell the bread in its baking process.

If "bake" were used instead ("I can smell the bread bake"), the perceptual-verb parsing would be necessary. But I find "bake" an awkward choice, because it suggests that you witness olfactorily (that word exists) the process as a whole.

As for "baked" ("I can smell the bread baked"), this again is an awkward choice. It could mean you smell the bread (that is) baked, but to me it suggests you can smell the bread "baked," i.e., while you are under the influence of marijuana.

You could, of course, say this instead: "I can smell the baked bread."

P.S. We recently discovered that it is possible to do one-line paragraph breaks by holding down the "Shift" key while pressing "Enter." That is how I was able to get my quotation of your post to appear as it does.

Excellent answer, David.

It could mean you smell the bread (that is) baked

I agree with you that that would not be the natural interpretation. The position of past participles in adjectival function is one of those curiosities one can hardly ever explain. While they tend to appear before the noun, they sometimes follow it, esp. when something else follows:

- I can smell the bread baked by my neighbor.

- I can smell the bread baked in my brandnew oven.

(In both cases, "baked" is short for "that has been baked.")

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