the usage of "what with"


Could you please tell me the structure of this sentence by MM? When can I possibly use “what with”?



Hi Tom,

‘What with’ introduces another situation, another factor. Take this as an example: What with the problem with his health, his low income and the bad weather, poor Charlie is really fed up. This construction refers to yet another annoying, irritating matter that makes for a difficult situation. It’s similar to: And on top of all that we have something else that’s gone wrong.


Hi Tom

To me, ‘what with’ is used to introduce a fact or facts which provide a reason or explanation for something else – similar to ‘because of’ . Sometimes people just use the word ‘with’.

[i]What with the the high cost of living in this area, double income households are the norm.

What with all the screaming and cheering after he won, no one could hear much of his acceptance speech.

It really was a wonderful day what with the radiant sunshine, the picnic in Central Park and the company of good friends.[/i]


Hi Tom,

Thought I might add a bit more to the ‘what with’ use. Often when you want to express the idea that you’ve been very busy with all sorts of things and you want to explain this as the reason for your delay in doing something, you say:

What with one thing and another I haven’t had a moment to sit down and reply to your letter.

Just a thought.


I am extremely grateful to both of you!

Is my attempt at “with what” OK?

1- With what his illness and other problems, he decided to resign for the job.

2- With what his rudness and inconsideration, she lost her trust in all army personnel.

Do we agree?


Hi Tom,

Sorry, no go with either of them. It’s a sort of unfinished construction. Half of : With what his illness did to him …

By the way the word is rudeness.


Hi Tom

Did you actually intend to reverse the word order (i.e. “with what” instead of “what with”) :?:

What with his illness and other problems, he decided to resign from the job. = OK

This sentence doesn’t work either. If you want to use ‘with what’, you need a completely different sentence structure. In addition, her loss of trust in all army personnel seems too extreme to be explained by just one person’s rudeness and inconsideration.

Here are a few examples:

  • What with his rudeness and inconsideration, it’s no wonder she didn’t like him.

  • With his rudeness and inconsideration, he is never able to hold a job very long.

  • With what you now know about his his rudeness and inconsideration in dealing with that issue, don’t you think he ought to be fired immediately?

What a silly billy!!! :shock: :shock:

I meant “what with” in both sentences, and ended up writing “with what”. Sorry!


I don’t agree that “with what” is incorrect expression.I’ve found a sentence taken from “A year in Provence” by Peter Mayle, in which was said:
“With what he thought was tremendous presence of mind,he pulled on to the hard shoulder,stood up on the front seat and urinated into the flames”

In that sentence of yours, “with what” has nothing to do with “what with”. I hope you do realize they are completely different in meaning.

And for the record, nobody said “with what” is an incorrect expression, and in your sentence it is perfectly valid. However, it is by no means interchangeable with “what with”.