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  1. #1
    driftwood is offline Junior Member
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    Default What little bread....

    In the two sentences below, can I replace 'what' with 'whatever'? Is 'whatever' preferable to 'what'? If not, what does 'what' mean?

    What little bread there was was stale and eaten, of course, without butter or jam.
    I hadn't been there more than a few minutes before one of the thieves managed to rob what little bread I had squirreled away.
    Last edited by driftwood; 19-Sep-2008 at 16:52. Reason: to make my question clearer..

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: What little bread....

    It's like 'the very little' and I would not use whatever there; what emphasises how little there was while whatever could be used with a large quantity and doesn't carry the same focus.

  3. #3
    driftwood is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: What little bread....

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    It's like 'the very little' and I would not use whatever there; what emphasises how little there was while whatever could be used with a large quantity and doesn't carry the same focus.
    Thank you for your reply.

    Do you consider 'what little' to be a collocation?

    Where is this use of 'what' derived from? Could it have come from "What little bread I have!, exclamation mood?

  4. #4
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    Raymott is online now VIP Member
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    Default Re: What little bread....

    Quote Originally Posted by driftwood View Post
    Thank you for your reply.

    Do you consider 'what little' to be a collocation?

    Where is this use of 'what' derived from? Could it have come from "What little bread I have!, exclamation mood?
    No, it's not a collocation. But it does tend to have a connotation of "not enough"
    What precious water we had, we kept for sipping.
    What Christmases I have remaining, I'd like to spend with my grandchildren.
    What eligible bachelors
    do exist, don't go to the same places as me.

    I don't know the derivation.

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