Confusion with 什么

August 25, 2010, 07:17 PM posted in I Have a Question


In one of the elementary lessons I encountered the following sentence.


Now I know what this means and that 以外 can happily be dropped but I'm still a little confused about the 什么。

In this context the 什么 means everything rather than what.  My literal english mind wanted to translate as

"apart from studying what does he not know"  i.e. the complete opposite of the actual meaning of the sentence. (partially I think because I misinterpreted 都 as part of the 除了 sequence).  

My question is: is there something that helps tip me off to the fact that 什么 is not being used as a question here?

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August 26, 2010, 12:27 AM

If there's a '都' or a '也', that's a surefire way to know it means "everything". It's a bit more difficult to determine when it means "something", since that's mostly context. Just like '几' can mean "how many" and "a few".

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August 26, 2010, 01:43 AM

To add onto what simonpettersson is saying:

什么不知道 = doesn't know what?

什么都不知道 = doesn't know anything

The word 都 changes the signficance of the sentence from "what thing" to "anything" or "everything".

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August 26, 2010, 09:54 PM

Thanks guys.

can it be literally be used to replace everything or only just in certain sentences?

我可以说马: 我想买什么都。  

生活,宇宙和什么都     (to quote douglas adams :-) )

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I could easily be wrong but I think the 都 needs to have something follow it.

so 我想買什麼都 sounds incomplete to me. Like saying in English....I want to buy all

什麼東西都想買...Is my best guess at wanting to buy everything.

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You're not wrong. But you don't need the '东西' (though there's nothing wrong with having it there). "我什么都想买" is also correct.

EDIT: Hell, you don't even really need the '什么'. "我都想买" is perfectly all right, but with a slightly different meaning. It's more like "I want to buy them all".

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It can only be used in certain sentences. Usually '什么都' or '什么也' is an object of a verb, and placed before the verb. So "他什么都不知道": he doesn't know anything (here it's "anything" and not "everything" because it's negated). In "Life, the universe and everything" you'd probably want to use '一切' to mean 'everything'.

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August 27, 2010, 04:39 PM

请注意 ,pay attention.“都”和“也”are being used always after the Subject and before the Predicate.








还有,”什么“in a rhetorical question: