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Definition of “what” - English Dictionary

"what" in American English

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whatpronoun, exclamation

 us   /hwʌt, wʌt, hwɑt, wɑt, hwət, wət/
  • what pronoun, exclamation (QUESTION)

used to introduce general questions: What did the teacher say? What is the capital of Nevada?
As an adjective, what can refer to people or things: What time is it? I don’t know what children she was talking about.
What may be used to show that you did not hear something and to ask that it be repeated: "Humphrey Jones called." "What (was that)?" "I said Humphrey Jones called."

whatpronoun

 us   /hwʌt, wʌt, hwɑt, wɑt, hwət, wət/
  • what pronoun (THAT WHICH)

the thing which; that which: I really didn’t know what to say. What annoyed me was her attitude. I hope you like the sweater – it’s what you asked for.
  • what pronoun (OPINION)

used to introduce your opinion: "She can’t come." "What a pity (= I am sorry to hear that)!"
(Definition of what from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)







"what" in British English

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whatdeterminer, pronoun, exclamation

uk   /wɒt/  us   /wɑːt/
  • what determiner, pronoun, exclamation (QUESTION)

A1 used to ask for information about people or things: What time is it? What books did you buy? What did you wear? What size shoes do you take? What happened after I left? What caused the accident?
used in questions that show you are surprised or do not believe something: "I just told Peter." "What?/You did what?" What's this I hear? You're leaving?
what... for?
B2 used to ask about the reason for something: What are these tools for? What are you doing that for? "We need a bigger car." "What for?"

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Grammar

whatpronoun

uk   /wɒt/  us   /wɑːt/
  • what pronoun (THAT WHICH)

B1 the thing(s) that; that which: What I wanted to find out first was how long it was going to take. What really concerned her was how unhappy the child was. She wouldn't tell me what he said. I didn't have much money on me but I gave them what I had. The letter showed clearly what they were planning. I can't decide what to do next. Have you thought about what to send as a present?
used to introduce something you are going to say: You'll never guess what - Laurie won first prize! I'll tell you what - we'll pick up something to eat on our way home.

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whatpredeterminer, determiner

uk   /wɒt/  us   /wɑːt/

whatpronoun, exclamation

uk   /wɒt/  us   /wɑːt/ informal
  • what pronoun, exclamation (QUESTION)

used to ask someone to say something again: "I think we should leave at twelve." "What?" "I said I think we should leave at twelve."
Grammar
(Definition of what from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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