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Say It Right Series

Confusion with 什么

Posted by trevorb August 25, 2010 in the Group I Have a Question.

 

In one of the elementary lessons I encountered the following sentence.

除了读书什么都不知道

Now I know what this means and that 以外 can happily be dropped but I'm still a little confused about the 什么。

In this context the 什么 means everything rather than what.  My literal english mind wanted to translate as

"apart from studying what does he not know"  i.e. the complete opposite of the actual meaning of the sentence. (partially I think because I misinterpreted 都 as part of the 除了 sequence).  

My question is: is there something that helps tip me off to the fact that 什么 is not being used as a question here?

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