Unraveling the Grammar Rules for Using “What” in English Sentences


Delve into the grammatical nuances of using the word “what” in English. Discover the rules and intricacies of employing “what” as an interrogative pronoun, adjective, and more.

Use What in a Sentence

Definition of What

“What” is an interrogative pronoun that is used to ask about the identity, nature, quality, quantity, or other characteristics of a person, thing, or situation. It is typically used to inquire about specific information or details and is an essential component of questions in the English language. For example, “What is your name?” or “What is the capital of France?” In addition to its interrogative function, “what” can also be used in relative clauses to introduce descriptions or characteristics of a noun, such as in the sentence “The book that I’m reading is really interesting.”

How is “What” used in English? What are the rules of use of “What”?

“What” is a versatile word in the English language that serves various grammatical functions. Here are some of the main ways “what” is used and the rules associated with its use:

  1. Interrogative Pronoun:
    • “What” is often used as an interrogative pronoun to ask questions about specific information.
    • Example: “What is your favorite color?”
    • Rule: Use “what” at the beginning of a question to inquire about a specific piece of information.
  2. Interrogative Adjective:
    • “What” can also function as an interrogative adjective when followed by a noun. It modifies the noun to form a question.
    • Example: “What book are you reading?”
    • Rule: Use “what” before a noun to ask about the identity or type of something.
  3. Indirect Questions:
    • “What” can be used in indirect questions, where the main question is embedded within a sentence.
    • Example: “I wonder what time it is.”
    • Rule: Use “what” to introduce the indirect question within a larger sentence.
  4. Exclamations:
    • “What” is used in exclamatory sentences to express surprise, amazement, or other strong emotions.
    • Example: “What a beautiful sunset!”
    • Rule: Use “what” before a noun to create an exclamation expressing strong emotion.
  5. Relative Pronoun:
    • “What” can function as a relative pronoun in rare cases, especially in formal or literary contexts.
    • Example: “I couldn’t understand what he was saying.”
    • Rule: Use “what” in relative clauses to introduce descriptions or explanations.
  6. Phrases and Idioms:
    • “What” is also used in various phrases and idiomatic expressions.
    • Example: “What’s done is done.”
    • Rule: Learn common idiomatic uses of “what” to understand its nuances.
  7. Compound Questions:
    • “What” can be used in compound questions to ask about multiple things at once.
    • Example: “What is your name and what do you do?”
    • Rule: Use “what” to introduce each part of a compound question.
  8. Direct Objects:
    • In some cases, “what” can be used as a direct object to replace a noun phrase.
    • Example: “I don’t know what she wants.”
    • Rule: Use “what” as a direct object to refer to an unknown or unspecified thing.

Remember that the usage of “what” depends on the context, the type of question being asked, and the grammatical structure of the sentence. Additionally, English can have variations in informal speech, regional dialects, and specific contexts that may influence how “what” is used.


How to use the word What in a sentence? 20 Sample Please

Here are 20 sample sentences demonstrating the use of the word “what” in various contexts:

  1. Interrogative Pronoun:
    • What is your favorite movie?
    • What did you eat for breakfast?
    • What time is the meeting?
  2. Interrogative Adjective:
    • What book are you reading?
    • What color is your car?
    • What size shoes do you wear?
  3. Indirect Questions:
    • She asked me what I was doing.
    • Tell me what you think about the proposal.
    • I’m curious about what he said.
  4. Exclamations:
    • What a beautiful sunset!
    • What an amazing performance!
    • What a mess in this room!
  5. Relative Pronoun:
    • I don’t understand what he meant.
    • She explained what the project involves.
    • The article discusses what happened last night.
  6. Phrases and Idioms:
    • You know what they say about early birds.
    • What goes around comes around.
    • What’s done is done.
  7. Compound Questions:
    • What is your favorite color, and what does it symbolize for you?
    • What do you want to do tonight, and what time should we meet?
  8. Direct Objects:
    • I don’t know what she wants.
    • He never says what’s on his mind.
    • She can’t decide what to wear.

Remember that the usage of “what” can vary based on the type of sentence, the question being asked, and the role it plays within the sentence structure.

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