The what? (or, 'In what?' 'You what?' ...)


Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
Say what?
Do what?
A what?

I've been using these expressions with friends when I didn't catch what they said when I didn't hear them at all. I use 'say,' 'do,' or 'a' because it doesn't matter what I say. He/she would think he/she didn't say them and presume I didn't catch them at all any way.

Now I was just watching a TV show, and a man just said 'The what?' in a similar situation. I now have a query: Does anything go? Can you use anything? In what? You what? etc.

(at a very noisy place)
A: John didn't show up.
B: The what?
A: I said, "John didn't show up."
B: Oh, he didn't?
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm sorry, Hiro, I don't use any of those.

    Let's see what AmE colleagues say:).


    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Since I am hard of hearing, I say "What?", "the what?", "do what?" all the time. :)
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I would say "The what?" only if I heard "the + [unclear word]", to show what I did and did not hear.
    I sometimes say "Do what?", but only if I understand that they have requested for me to do something.
    A: "Would you please bla-bla-bla?"
    B: "Do what?"
    Sometimes you can make a person feel extremely guilty when they say they have done something (and you heard it perfectly), by responding with "You what?!!!"


    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Thanks, all. It seems like they are American. My friends back in high school in the Midwest of the U.S. would say 'Do what?' all the time, even when they didn't hear anything done. It was equivalent to 'What did you say?,' 'Excuse me?,' or 'I'm sorry?.'

    And though I use them less frequently, I sometimes say 'A what?' and 'Say what?' ... but 'The what?' to something I couldn't hear without 'the.' Yes, it would be more appropriate if you said 'The what?' to something somebody had said with 'the + [unclear words].'


    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Yes, and as far as it being a simple question I was always surrounded by the question 'Say what?' used to signal 'I didn't hear you' back in the 80's in the Midwest of the U.S. But more 'Do what' in my circle. And they were used when the listener didn't hear any as well as when he/she missed words after 'say' or 'do.' Anyway back to what I was curious about, it seems 'The what?' could be used to have the speaker repeat what he/she just said.
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