"what means?" vs. "what gives?"

It’s amazing to see how traditional classroom systems work or rather how they don’t work. Ever since our forum has been online, there have been hundreds if not thousands of people who asked “What means …?” I’m sure that the vast majority of those learners have attended a traditional English class in which their teachers could have taught them that one of most important questions to any student of English should be “What does this word mean?” I think this shows that the conventional approach to grammar simply does not work. Also, there are so many tools available that give you the meaning of any single word. Still, there are many people who ask their teacher for information they can easily find in a dictionary.

Why do you think is that? I mean, what do you think makes people ask about the meaning of single words? Is it that they don’t know what else to ask or maybe they simply don’t know how to use a dictionary?

PS: Maybe some people confuse the phrase what means? with what gives?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: Why are these young men in conversation?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten

Yes, What gives? is an expression we use in the US. :lol:

It means “What’s going on?” or “What’s up?” (with the flavor of “What’s wrong?” added)


Interesting, isn’t it? (the similarity to the German expression, I mean). :smiley:

I’d like to ask about “What’s up?”
Once I called a person and his question “What’s up?” disappointed me. I thought he meant “what’s happening?” “Why are you calling me?”. Then I heard it being used in the meaning of “How are you” (from American films mostly). So what does it means?
Thanks in advance.

Hi Moniker

“What’s up?” is often used as a greeting and basically means “What’s new?” or “What’s (been) happening?”

“What’s up?” doesn’t mean the same thing as “How are you” but “What’s up?” might be used instead of “Hi, how are you?” It’s an informal greeting.

In spoken American English “What’s up?” might also simply sound like “S’up?”


Not only ‘what gives’: what shows, what makes, what causes, etc. And also ‘what means…’ in questions like ‘What means the world to you?’. I think it has to do with ‘what’ being the subject of the verb.

Thanks a lot, Yankee.
It’s clear now.
Sometimes the dctionaries give you different meanings of a single word, but as they are given in concise and dry way you can’t catch their very functionality untill you don’t use them in context. You can’t even remember all the meanings of a word. They are so diverse in significance. You should put a word in all the combinations that give you the meanings given in dictionaries. Maybe then you’ll be able to see the logical link between all these significances.