what

[[t](h)wɒ̱t[/t]]
(Usually pronounced [[t](h)wɒt[/t]] for meanings 2, 4, 5 and 18.)
1) QUEST You use what in questions when you ask for specific information about something that you do not know.

What do you want?...

What did she tell you, anyway?...

`Has something happened?' - `Indeed it has.' - `What?'...

What are the greatest sources of conflict in the Middle East?...

Hey! What are you doing?

DET-QUEST
What is also a determiner.

What time is it?... What crimes are the defendants being charged with?... `The heater works.' - `What heater?'... What kind of poetry does he like?

2) CONJ-SUBORD You use what after certain words, especially verbs and adjectives, when you are referring to a situation that is unknown or has not been specified.

You can imagine what it would be like driving a car into a brick wall at 30 miles an hour...

I want to know what happened to Norman...

Do you know what those idiots have done?...

We had never seen anything like it before and could not see what to do next...

She turned scarlet from embarrassment, once she realized what she had done.

DET
What is also a determiner.

I didn't know what college I wanted to go to... I didn't know what else to say. ...an inspection to ascertain to what extent colleges are responding to the needs of industry.

3) CONJ-SUBORD (emphasis) You use what at the beginning of a clause in structures where you are changing the order of the information to give special emphasis to something.

What precisely triggered off yesterday's riot is still unclear...

What I wanted, more than anything, was a few days' rest...

What she does possess is the ability to get straight to the core of a problem.

4) CONJ-SUBORD You use what in expressions such as what is called and what amounts to when you are giving a description of something.

She had been in what doctors described as an irreversible vegetative state for five years...

Meanwhile, most young people in the West are expected to leave what could be life's most momentous decision - marriage - almost entirely up to luck.

5) CONJ-SUBORD You use what to indicate that you are talking about the whole of an amount that is available to you.

He drinks what is left in his glass as if it were water...

He moved carefully over what remained of partition walls.

Syn:
DET
What is also a determiner.

They had had to use what money they had.

6) CONVENTION (formulae) You say `What?' to tell someone who has indicated that they want to speak to you that you have heard them and are inviting them to continue.

`Dad?' - `What?' - `Can I have the car tonight?'

7) CONVENTION (formulae) You say `What?' when you ask someone to repeat the thing that they have just said because you did not hear or understand it properly. `What?' is more informal and less polite than expressions such as `Pardon?' and `Excuse me?'. [SPOKEN]

`They could paint this place,' she said. `What?' he asked.

8) CONVENTION (feelings) You say `What' to express surprise.

`Adolphus Kelling, I arrest you on a charge of trafficking in narcotics.' - `What?'...

`We've got the car that killed Myra Moss.' - `What!'

9) PREDET (emphasis) You use what in exclamations to emphasize an opinion or reaction.

What a horrible thing to do...

What a busy day.

DET
What is also a determiner.

What ugly things; throw them away, throw them away... What great news, Jakki.

10) ADV: ADV n You use what to indicate that you are making a guess about something such as an amount or value.

It's, what, eleven years or more since he's seen him...

This piece is, what, about a half an hour long?

11) CONVENTION You say guess what or do you know what to introduce a piece of information which is surprising, which is not generally known, or which you want to emphasize.

Guess what? I'm going to dinner at Mrs. Combley's tonight...

Do you know what? I'm going to the circus this afternoon.

12) PHRASE: cl PHR (emphasis) In conversation, you say or what? after a question as a way of stating an opinion forcefully and showing that you expect other people to agree.

Look at that moon. Is that beautiful or what?...

Am I wasting my time here, or what?

13) CONVENTION (feelings) You say so what? or what of it? to indicate that the previous remark seems unimportant, uninteresting, or irrelevant to you.

`I skipped off school today,' - `So what? What's so special about that?'...

`This is Hollywood, U.S.A., where they make all the movies, remember.' - `What of it?'

`You're talking to yourself.' - `Well, what of it?'

Syn:
14) PHRASE: PHR cl You say `Tell you what' to introduce a suggestion or offer.

Tell you what, let's stay here another day and go to the fair.

Syn:
I know
15) PHRASE: PHR n/-ing You use what about at the beginning of a question when you make a suggestion, offer, or request.

What about going out with me tomorrow?...

`What about Sunday evening at Frank's?' - `Sure. What time?'...

What about you? Would you like to come and live in Paris and work for me?

Syn:
how about
16) PHRASE: PHR group/cl You use what about or what of when you introduce a new topic or a point which seems relevant to a previous remark.

Now you've talked about work on daffodils, what about other commercially important flowers, like roses?...

And what about when you were in the fifth year, did people give you careers advice on coming to college?...

And what of the effect on U.S domestic opinion?...

`I don't like being in the house on my own.' - `What about at night? Do you mind being by yourself at night?'

17) PHRASE: PHR n You say what about a particular person or thing when you ask someone to explain why they have asked you about that person or thing.

`This thing with the Corbett woman.' - `Oh, yeah. What about her?'

18) PHRASE: n PHR, n and/or PHR (vagueness) You say what have you at the end of a list in order to refer generally to other things of the same kind.

So many things are unsafe these days - milk, cranberry sauce, what have you...

My great-grandfather, who had the forge in town, made horseshoes and nails and what have you.

Syn:
19) PHRASE: PHR cl You say what if at the beginning of a question when you ask about the consequences of something happening, especially something undesirable.

What if this doesn't work out?...

What if he was going to die!...

What if relations between you and your neighbour have reached deadlock, and their behaviour is still unacceptable?

20) PHRASE: PHR after v If you know what's what, you know the important things that need to be known about a situation.

You have to know what's what and when to draw the line...

You should come across the river with us. Then you will really see what's what.

21) PHR-PREP You say what with in order to introduce the reasons for a particular situation, especially an undesirable one.

Maybe they are tired, what with all the sleep they're losing staying up night after night...

What with one thing and another, it was fairly late in the day when we returned to Shrewsbury.

22) CONVENTION (formulae) People say `you what?' to indicate that they do not believe or accept the remark that someone has just made, or that they have not heard or understood it properly. [INFORMAL, SPOKEN]

`I'm going to have problems sleeping tonight.' - `You what?'...

`What are you doing here?' - `Oh I work here now.' - `You what?'

Syn:
what
23) what's moresee more

English dictionary. 2008.

Synonyms:

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