Is it correct to answer "by what?" for the question: "What do you mean?", like:

  • What do you mean?
  • By what?
  • By doing this... (example)

Is there any better way to answer with a question that sounds more fluently?

  • I sometimes hear Americans say "what do you mean, what do you mean?" Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 16:46
  • 3
    By what is not an answer, but a question to clarify a detail before answering. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 17:20
  • It is fluent, but more so in speech, and in context. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 18:02
  • Wa da ya mean, what do I mean?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 19:14
  • "Sorry, can you be more specific./?" Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is appropriate to use "By what?" as a response to the first question. This usage implies that the second speaker is unsure what the first speaker is referring to. I'd say that the interaction you have written sounds fluent in American English.

If you want a more formal way, you can consider using a full sentence: "What do I mean by what?"

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