Learner's definition of WHAT
1 a — used to ask for information about someone or something
b — used to describe a question
What is your name?
What are those things on the table?
What's your family like?
What [=how much] does it cost?
“What did she say?” “She said yes.”
What do you think of my idea?
What do you want to do tonight?
“Dad!” “What (do you want)?” “You have a phone call.”
What (on earth) are you doing?!
I finished dusting. Now what (should I do)?
What (should I do) next?
What else did he say?
You have money, fame, and a beautiful family. What more could you want?
Please ask them what they want for dinner.
They asked her what she knew about him.
I wonder what his motives were.
2 a — used to ask someone to say something again because you have not clearly heard or understood it — often used to show surprise about the thing that someone has just said b informal — used to express surprise, excitement, etc. 3 informal — used to ask what someone's last name is 4 a : that which : the one or ones that
b : the kind that : the same as c : something that d : the thing or things that
He has no income but what he gets from his writing. [=he has no income except for the income he gets from his writing]
“Do you have any other sizes?” “No, only what you see here.”
What you need is a vacation. [=you need a vacation]
What made me angry was how he treated you. [=it was the way he treated you that made me angry]
What matters most is your safety. = Your safety is what matters most.
Romance novels are what she enjoys reading.
Do what you're told.
Tell me what you're looking for.
She is looking for something but I don't know what.
He knows what he should do.
— often followed by to + verb
◊ Guess what is often used to tell someone that you have surprising news.
e : anything or everything that : whatever
Stop telling me what to do.
I don't know what to think/say/believe.
She has (got) what it takes [=she has the skills and personality] to do the job.
I'll do what it takes to win.
You'll never guess what happened to me today. [=you'll be surprised by what happened to me today]
Say what you will, my opinion won't change. [=nothing you can say will change my opinion]
Take what you need. [=take anything that you need]
5 informal — used to direct attention to something that you are about to say
I'll tell you what I'm going to do: I'm going to let you have it for 30 percent off.
I'll tell you what. If he thinks I'm cleaning up this mess, he's wrong.
Tell you what—let's eat out tonight.
“It's not worth the money.” “You know what—you're right.”
1 — used to ask about what is happening, being done, etc.
Is it snowing, raining, or what?
So are you ready to leave or what?
2 — used to ask if someone agrees with you
1 a : does that include (someone) : how about (someone) b : how does that affect (someone or something) : what should be done about (someone or something)
“I need to leave—something has come up.” “What about the meeting?” “We can reschedule it.”
“You can throw this one away.” “What about the others?” “Those I want to keep.”
(And/But) What about the people who can't afford health insurance?
2 — used to make a suggestion about what could be done
What about [=how about] coming with us?
What about driving to the coast for the weekend?
We'll need to talk about this again. What about (meeting) next week?
What about another game? [=would you like to play another game?]
3 — used to ask someone to tell you something in response to the thing that you have just said
I like skiing and hiking. What about you? [=what sports do you like?]
Everyone else is coming. What about you? [=are you coming, too?]
: for what purpose or reason
What did you do that for? [=why did you do that?]
What is this switch for? [=what does this switch do?]
“The principal wants to see you.” “What for?” [=why?]
what have youinformal
: any of the other things that might also be mentioned
1 : what would happen if
What if they find out?
What if it rains?
2 : what does it matter if — used to say that something is not important
“He's nice enough, I suppose. But he's poor.” “What if he is poor? I love him!”
“They might find out.” “So what if they do? I don't care.”
— see also so what at 3what
1 formal : how does that affect (someone or something) : what should be done about (someone or something) 2 : why does (something) matter
what's it to you?informal
: why do you want to know — used to respond in a somewhat angry or annoyed way to a question that you do not want to answer
what's up?US, informal
— used as a friendly greeting
: the true state of things : the things that need to be known or understood in order to make good judgments, decisions, etc.
what's withinformalorwhat's up with
1 : what is the reason for (something) 2 : what is wrong with (someone or something) 2what/ˈwɑːt, ˈwʌt/adjective
Learner's definition of WHAT
always used before a noun
1 — used to ask someone to indicate the identity or nature of someone or something
What fool told you that?
What book did you read?
What news have you heard from him?
In what way are these two stories the same?
We won the war, but at what price? [=did we lose or give up too much in order to win the war?]
2 — used to say that someone or something is remarkable for having good or bad qualities 3 — used to refer to an amount that someone has, uses, etc.
She gave what money she had [=she gave all the money she had] to the homeless man.
Give what excuses you will—it makes no difference. [=no excuses that you may give will make any difference]
He soon gambled away what (little) money he had left.
We spent what (little) time remained chatting.
Learner's definition of WHAT
— used to say that something said or done is not important
— used to introduce the part of a sentence that indicates the cause of something
What with the freezing temperatures, they nearly died.
What with school and sports, she's always busy.
Things have been difficult for him lately, what with his wife's illness and all.