I saw a sign outside a factory office that said:

If you don't have what to do, don't do it here.

I've also heard this word usage in the phrase:

Do you have what to eat.

Is this grammatical or colloquial? I usually see the word "what" as introducing a question. Does it have another usage as a noun or object?

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    Using what for anything is still a pronominal use not a nominal one. You can tell because you can't use it in the noun slot of a noun phrase: *"My three red whats are ready for you now" You may wish to edit your question. – tchrist Jan 19 '17 at 17:53
  • I can't find it in the online dictionaries I checked, but what can be used in these idioms to mean something. But if you check the dictionaries, you'll see that there are many other uses that don't introduce a question. – Barmar Jan 19 '17 at 18:49
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    These examples appear to have been poorly translated from another language. I believe the correct translation would be: "If you have nothing to do, don't do it here." and perhaps "Do you have enough food?" (there are more options here, depending on the exact context). -- Curiously enough, the phrase "if you don't know what to do" passes, unlike the very similar "if you don't have what to do". – michael.hor257k Jan 20 '17 at 22:50
  • Hi @michael.hor257k. Can you elaborate on your last sentence? I don't understand why the first passes while the second is problematic. – DanF Jan 23 '17 at 2:23
  • @DanF If I knew why, I would have posted this as an answer. – michael.hor257k Jan 23 '17 at 7:26

This is the the definition and the function of "what" according to oxford learners dictionary ( http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/what?q=What) what is pronoun,determiner < it can be used in questions to ask for particular information about somebody/something, for example:

  • What is your name?
  • What (= what job) does he do?
  • What time is it?
  • What kind of music do you like?

or it can be the thing or things that; whatever, for example:

  • What you need is a good meal.
  • Nobody knows what will happen next.
  • I spent what little time I had with my family.

Or it can be used to say that you think that something is especially good, bad, etc. For example:

  • What awful weather!
  • What a beautiful house!

I think the example of 'nobody knows what will happen next' explains your query as 'what' might refer to certain thing which might be a noun or an object.

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    None of those is parallel to the examples in the question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 21 '17 at 0:45
  • His example is "do u have what to eat" is parallel ti mine "nobody knows what happens next" as in both "what" refers to an object – Marwa Kamal Jan 21 '17 at 4:49
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    The difference is that know can take an indirect or reduced question as its object; have cannot. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 21 '17 at 8:25

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