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Hello,

I wonder why the auther uses 'a' in this sentence?

Rembrandt could have been nothing but what was delightful and good, since he was loved by so charming a girl as Saskia.

And what is the meaning of what here in this sentence? Can it be replaced by ''that"?
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ninania Rembrandt could have been nothing but what was delightful and good, since he was loved by so charming a girl as Saskia.
The style is not quite modern.

"You've never seen such a girl!" In this structure we use the indefinite article with the countable singular noun.

If the noun were plural, or uncountable, we would skip the article.
"You've never seen such apples!"
"You've never seen such arrogance!"
"You've never seen so beautiful an apple!"

"What" is a relative pronoun, subject of the ralative clause, and may not be replaced by "that" in this case.

He could have been good.
He could have been nothing but good.
He could have been what was good.
He could have been nothing but what was good. ("What was good" replaces "good.")

She must have been lucky.
She must have been who I saw.

She must have been the girl whom I saw.
She must have been the girl that I saw.

I'm struggling to explain why "what" cannot be replaced by "that."
In my last example, "girl" is the antecedent of "that."
In your example, there is no antecedent. (Okay, so how can it be a relative clause?)

Perhaps with the simple "being" verb:
He is good.
He is what is good. (Not, "He is that is good.")
Dare I say the complement of "is" is the small clause, "what is good"?

He is what I want to be. (I want to be what.)

Okay, so maybe it's not a relative clause!
Thank you very, very much! Emotion: smile
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ninaniaAnd what is the meaning of what here in this sentence? Can it be replaced by ''that"?
No, but it can be replaced by "that which".

CJ
AvangiDare I say the complement of "is" is the small clause, "what is good"?
Nice try, but small clauses never contain a finite verb (or to-infinitive). "is" in "what is good" is a finite verb form. This is an ordinary clause, far as I can tell.

CJ
Hello,

Thank you. Emotion: smile
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CalifJimNice try, but small clauses never contain a finite verb (or to-infinitive).
Not so nice, actually. I looked for your thread just before I put my foot in my mouth, but was too tired to find it. (Don't give up on me.)

Edit. Hmmm, I found my foot and my mouth, but not the thread.
Hello,

I will never give up on you. Thank you for letting me know these two interesting expressions.

Emotion: smile
ninania interesting expressions.
Sometimes I get a little out of control. Emotion: nodding
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