Please tell me what "to think that what" is in following sentence. I haven't ever seen this phrase. What is this? And what it means? I don't require exact answer. Any help is appreciated.

"And it's kind of extraordinary to think that what, if we came here next year, we're not gonna hear this sound at all? You're gonna have to come back in 13 years. "

Sited from The Code episode 1 "Magic Number".

  • @Colin Fine is correct -- spoken English does not always follow rules. Even speakers from different geographic areas of the same city might use language differently from each other. When I was a kid, we even made up words or phrases that our group understood but no one else would. "Pull a Bryan." meant nearly drown. So this speech from The Code is like that -- the speaker is using a colloquialism familiar to his group or audience. It doesn't have to be common or good English.
    – WRX
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


It's not standard English. I interpret "what" as an exclamation.

So the direct quotation would be

What, if we came here next year, we're not gonna here this sound at all? ...

The indirect speech is trying to render this with the exclamation, but there is not really a way to do that in standard English.

  • Thank you. Now I gradually understand the meaning. I interpret the "to think what that" as "that make we think what". Is this roughly correct? Mar 5, 2017 at 0:34
  • Could be, but not in this context, @KeiMinagawa. The context is "It's [...] extraordinary to think that ... "; which could be paraphrased as "To think that ... is extraordinary".
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 6, 2017 at 21:12
  • OK and I have another question. If that context doesn't include "what" used as exclamation, how is the context rewritten. I want to know the basic structure of all of the context. Mar 9, 2017 at 19:37
  • I'm not sure quite what you are asking, @KeiMinagawa; but without the embedded exclamation it reads: "And it's kind of extraordinary to think that if we came here next year, we're not gonna hear this sound at all?" There is now nothing but the question mark which shows that the last bit is a question (spoken with question intonation).
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 10, 2017 at 12:14
  • Sorry, I forgot that you mentioned it is indirect speech. OK. I got it. Thank you very much. Mar 10, 2017 at 17:25

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