I am composing a sentence describing results of an experiment:

we find [results] beyond what can be expected from [theory]

I am not sure this is a proper use of "what". Does my sentence needs rewording?

2 Answers 2


It is a correct use of it in the sense given here where it means "that which".

Some people might prefer "that which" as more formal, but others would prefer "what" so you can certainly stay with it.


I take it you mean 'what can be expected from theory X is Y. These results go beyond Y.'

If this assumption is correct, I suggest 'we find that (results) go beyond the results which can be expected from (theory).'

  • Yes, that's what I mean. I was trying to avoid the use of a placeholder word like "the results" in your sentence. Is there a way to connect (results) directly to (expectations) which are exceeded?
    – Slaviks
    Feb 12, 2014 at 13:39
  • 1
    @slaviks There's a good document on strategies for academic writing for ESL speakers at www.helsinki.fi/kksc/language.services/AcadWrit.pdf Feb 12, 2014 at 14:42

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