American English

Definition of what pronoun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    pronoun, determiner
    , NAmE//wɑt//
    , NAmE//wət//
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  1. 1used in questions to ask for particular information about someone or something What is your name? What (= what job) does he do? What time is it? What kind of music do you like? compare which
  2. 2the thing or things that; whatever What you need is a good meal. Nobody knows what will happen next. I spent what little time I had with my family.
  3. 3used to say that you think that something is especially good, bad, etc. What awful weather! What a beautiful house!
  4. Idioms
    and what not, and what have you (informal)
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    and other things of the same type It's full of old toys, books, and what not.
    get/give somebody what for (informal)
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    to be punished/punish someone severely I'll give her what for if she does that again.
      or what (informal)
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    1. 1used to emphasize your opinion Is he stupid or what?
    2. 2used when you are not sure about something I don't know if he's a teacher or what. Are we going now or what?
      what? (informal)
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    1. 1used when you have not heard or have not understood something What? I can't hear you.
    2. 2used to show that you have heard someone and to ask what they want “Mommy!” “What?” “I'm thirsty.”
    3. 3used to express surprise or anger “It will cost $500.” “What?” “I asked her to marry me.” “You what?
      what about…? (informal)
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    1. 1used to make a suggestion What about a trip to Mexico?
    2. 2used to introduce someone or something into the conversation What about you, Joe? Do you like football?
    what-d'you-call-him/-her/-it/-them, what's-his/-her/-its/-their-name
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    used instead of a name that you cannot remember I spoke to what's-his-name, you know, Sue's math teacher.
    for what purpose or reason? What is this tool for? What did you do that for (= why did you do that)? “I need to see a doctor.” “What for?”
    what if…?
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    what would happen if? What if the train is late? What if she forgets to bring it?
    what of it? (informal)
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    used when admitting that something is true, to ask why it should be considered important Yes, I wrote the article. What of it?
    what's it to you? (informal)
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    used as a slightly rude reply to a question about something you think is private “What's in the package?” “What's it to you?”
    what's up with that?
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    used to suggest that something you have heard is a stupid idea or does not make sense They benched their best player. What's up with that?
    what's what (informal)
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    what things are useful, important, etc. She certainly knows what's what.
    what's with somebody? (informal)
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    used to ask why someone is behaving in a strange way What's with you? You haven't said a word all morning.
    what's with something? (informal)
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    used to ask the reason for something What's with all this walking? Can't we take a cab?
    what with something
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    used to list the various reasons for something What with the cold weather and my bad leg, I haven't been out for weeks.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: what