Meaning of “what” - Learner’s Dictionary


pronoun, determiner uk us /wɒt/

A1 used to ask for information about something:

What's this?
What time is it?
What happened?

B1 used to refer to something without naming it:

I heard what he said.
Do you know what I mean?
What I like most about her is her honesty.
NOT HEARD informal

used when you have not heard what someone has said and you want them to repeat it. Some people think this use is not very polite:

"Do you want a drink Tom?" "What?"
REPLY informal

used to ask what someone wants when they call you:

"Hey Jenny?" "Yes, what?"
what a/an ...

B1 used to give your opinion, especially when you have strong feelings about something:

What a mess!
What an awful day!
what about...?

A2 used to suggest something:

What about asking Martin to help?
what ... for?

B2 used to ask about the reason for something:

What are you doing that for?
"We really need a bigger car." "What for?"
what if...?

B1 used to ask about something that could happen in the future, especially something bad:

What if I don't pass my exams?
what's up (with sb) informal

used to ask why someone is unhappy or angry:

What's up, Angie? You look troubled.
what with informal

used to talk about the reasons for a particular situation, especially a bad or difficult situation:

I'm tired, what with travelling all day yesterday and sleeping badly.
what's more

B2 used to add something surprising or interesting to what you have just said

(Definition of “what” from the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)