Definition of “what” - English Dictionary

“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 Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“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)