Relative Adverbs

Relative adverbs are words that give us more description for nouns, the people, places, or things being discussed. Let's get to know them better.

"Relative Adverbs" in the English Grammar

What Are Relative Adverbs?

Relative adverbs are adverbs that are used to introduce a dependent clause that functions as an adverbial modifier within a sentence. These adverbs are called relative because they relate the dependent clause to the rest of the sentence.

English Relative Adverbs

There are three main relative adverbs in English:

  1. When → refers to time
  2. Where → refers to place
  3. Why → refers to reason

Tip!

A relative adverb can usually be used with a preposition and the relative pronoun 'which.'

Relative Adverbs: Function

Relative adverbs are used to introduce and head a relative clause, which functions as an adverbial modifier in a sentence. They can act as either the subject or object of the clause, and they also function as a conjunction, connecting the relative clause to a nouns or pronouns in another clause.
So basically, they simultaneously fulfil two functions :

  1. They introduce adjective clauses.
  2. They join nouns or pronouns to relative clauses.

Relative Adverbs with Adjective Clauses

A relative adverb is used to introduce an adjective clause that describes a noun or pronoun in a sentence. This type of clause provides additional information about the noun or pronoun. Consider these sentences:

This is the hospital.

My mom gave birth to me.

They are both correct sentences, but if we want to join them to form a single sentence, we need a relative adverb:

This is the hospital where my mom gave birth to me.

using 'where' as a relative adverb

How Do We Spot Them in a Sentence?

To spot a relative adverb in a sentence, all you need to do is to find the relative clause. The relative adverb always introduces the relative clause. Pay attention to the example:

I remember the day when he proposed to me.

Relative Adverb of Time

'When' is a relative adverb of time that is commonly used to introduce adjective clauses that relate to time. It can replace more formal phrases, such as 'in which', 'at which', or 'on which', and is used to provide additional information about the timing or sequence of events in a sentence. Pay attention to the examples:

I remember the day when I met your mother.

Do you remember the years when our country was not at war?

Relative Adverb of Place

'Where' is a relative adverb of place that is commonly used to introduce adjective clauses that relate to location. It can replace more formal phrases, such as 'in which' or 'at which', and is used to provide additional information about the location of a noun or pronoun in a sentence.
Here is a list of all the relative adverbs of place:

  • Where
  • Whereby
  • Whereon
  • Wherein

This is the restaurant where he took me on our very first date.

This is the city where we took these photos.

A system whereby people could vote by telephone

the cliff side whereon I walked

the situation wherein the information will eventually be used

Relative Adverb of Reason

'Why' is a relative adverb of reason that is commonly used to introduce adjective clauses that relate to the reason for something. It can replace the more formal phrase 'for which' and is used to provide additional information about the cause or motivation behind an action or event in a sentence. For example:

The reason why this has become a problem is still unknown to us.

There is no reason why they cannot get married.

Review

To become acquainted with relative adverbs, it is important to know what relative clauses are. Relative clauses give extra information about the main clause. Relative adverbs come before the relative clause. Here are the main relative adverbs:

  • When: to refer to time
  • Where: to refer to locations and places
  • Why: to refer to reasons

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