Definition of what pronoun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    pronoun, determiner
    BrE BrE//wɒt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//wɑːt//
    , NAmE//wʌt//
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  1. 1  used in questions to ask for particular information about somebody/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. 2  the 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. 3  used to say that you think that something is especially good, bad, etc. What awful weather! What a beautiful house!
  4. Word OriginOld English hwæt, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch wat and German was, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin quod.Idioms
    and what not, and what have you
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    (informal) and other things of the same type It's full of old toys, books and what not.
    get/give somebody what for
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    (informal) to be punished/punish somebody severely I'll give her what for if she does that again.
    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?
    1. 1  used when you have not heard or have not understood something What? I can't hear you.
    2. 2  used to show that you have heard somebody and to ask what they want ‘Mummy!’ ‘What?’ ‘I'm thirsty.’
    3. 3  used 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. 1  used to make a suggestion What about a trip to France?
    2. 2  used to introduce somebody/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 She's just gone out with old what-d'you-call-him.
     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 would happen if? What if the train is late? What if she forgets to bring it? (informal) used when admitting that something is true, to ask why it should be considered important Yes, I wrote the article. What of it? (especially North American English) used to suggest that something you have heard is a stupid idea or does not make sense They dropped their best player. What's up with that? (informal) what things are useful, important, etc. She certainly knows what's what.
    what’s with somebody?
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    (North American English, informal) used to ask why somebody is behaving in a strange way What's with you? You haven't said a word all morning.
    what’s with something?
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    (North American English, informal) used to ask the reason for something What's with all this walking? Can't we take a cab?
    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 American Dictionary entry: what