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What is the meaning of "they finished what was left of their kiwi salad" in the following sentence?

Mr. Putter and Mrs. Teaberry took off their shoes and put their feet in the water. They filled their cups with apple tea. They chewed their tomato sandwiches. And they finished what was left of their kiwi salad.

Does it mean "When they finished eating, they left their kiwi salad"?

What does "what" in the sentence mean?

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The word what has certain functions and they are listed here in the dictionary. But in this context it functions as a relative pronoun and the meaning is "the thing(s) that" as Cambridge dictionary states here. Therefore, your example:

They finished what was left of their kiwi salad.

Equals to

They finished the thing/s that was /were left of their kiwi salad.

In the end of the day, the sentence means to say that they ate ("finished" it by eating) the kiwi salad that remained after they ate already most of it before.

  • If so, Does "they finished what was left of their kiwi salad" mean "they ate their kiwi salad that was left of" ? Why is there the preposition "of"? what does "of" mean in the sentence ? – user22046 Mar 20 '18 at 4:19
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    The preposition "of" answers on a question "what was left" / "the thing that was left of what? (=of their kiwi salad). It is the same as you say "It is out of my mind". The preposition "of" answers on the question ""out of what" (=of my mind). – Judicious Allure Mar 20 '18 at 4:31
  • If so, does "they finished what was left of their kiwi salad" mean "they ate a portion of kiwi salad that was left (out) of their kiwi salad" ? – user22046 Mar 20 '18 at 4:36
  • Yes, it does. (In the morning they had 1000 gram kiwi salad, and they ate only 700 grams our of it. Then they came back at the evening and ate the 300 grams that remained. – Judicious Allure Mar 20 '18 at 4:41
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Definition #1.1. of the verb to finish straight from the English Oxford Living Dictionaries:

1.1 Consume or get through the final amount or portion of (something, especially food or drink)

Example sentence:

'I came back in and finished my drink and looking back I can't recall that it tasted any different.'

So, initially, there was a kiwi salad. Some of it was eaten and some of it was left over. They came around and finished it—they ate the portion of the salad that was left over. In other words, they ate what was left over of the salad. The pronoun what there refers to the portion that was left over.

Take a look at this example:

I did what you asked me to do.

That what there refers to that which I was asked to do. Whatever it was. I did that which you asked me to do.

  • if so, does 'they ate what was left over of the salad" mean "they ate what was left over. and the thing that was left over was a portion of salad" ? – user22046 Mar 20 '18 at 4:29
  • @user22046 Yes, that's what it means. More precisely, the thing that they finished was the portion of the salad that was left over. what = the portion of the salad that was left over. – Michael Rybkin Mar 20 '18 at 12:15
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    +1 for "I did what you asked me to do." I think it's a really nice example. – ColleenV Mar 20 '18 at 12:26

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