have what to eat

Hello everyone,

I read here somewhere that the phrase ''have what to eat'' (meaning: have food available at home, etc to eat) isn't natural/idiomatic English. The natural phrase in this context would be ''have something to eat'' (or ''not have anything to eat'' - in a negative form). But the problem is that I did some research and found ''what'' (in Cambridge and Macmillan) in sentences like ''I didn't have much money on me, but I gave them what I had'', ''Show me what you bought''. My question: Why aren't sentences like ''They don't have what to eat'' or ''Fortunately, you have what to eat now'' correct?

Thank you in advance!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, what (= the thing or things that…) serves as a pronoun when it makes sense grammatically. But that’s not the case with “have what to eat” in statement form.

    I didn’t have much but I gave them what I had. (what = the small amount that I did have)
    Show me what you bought. (what = the item that you bought)
     
    Thank you very much.

    Question: When, for example, a parent wants to lecture their child (in order for the child to value the things they have, for example, food to eat, a place to live, etc), is ''have what to eat'' the best option, as in ''We aren't rich, but you should count yourself lucky that we have what to eat, a place to live, and are healthy.'' ?

    Thank you in advance!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That use is not possible, as I’ve already said. Here are some uses with the infinitive that do work:
    He can’t decide what to eat tonight. :tick:
    We don’t know what to do. :tick:
    It’s hard to know what to think about that. :tick:
    She always knows what to do! :tick:
     
    Last edited:

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "What" in that context means "what <thing>". "What thing" doesn't fit in your context.

    - Show me what thing you bought.
    - I didn't have much money on me, but I gave them what money I had.


    :thumbsup:

    - They don't have what food to eat.
    - We aren't rich, but you should count yourself lucky that we have what thing to eat, a place to live, and are healthy.

    :thumbsdown:
     
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