Relative Adverbs for intermediate learners

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 function as relating structures. In other words, they connect clauses together. We have three main relative adverbs in English. Take a look at the list below:

How Do Relative Adverbs Function?

Since they can be both the subject and the object of a sentence, and also be a conjunction to connect relative clauses to nouns and pronouns in other clauses, their main functions are listed as follows:

  • They introduce adjective clauses.
  • They join nouns and pronouns to relative clauses.

Relative Adverbs and Adjective Clauses

When we want to start an adjective clause that describes a noun, we can use a relative adverb. The adverb gives us more information about the noun in the clause. Pay attention to the following examples:

This is the school.

I studied philosophy.

Now, let us see how we can connect these sentences and make them one:

The is the school where I studied philosophy.

That was the day when I first met her.

Relative Adverb: Where

Where is an adverb of place and when we want to specify a location, we mainly use this relative adverb. Take a look at the following examples:

That was the hospital where my mother gave birth to me.

As you can see, the sentence is showing the location.

Is this the café where she met her fiancé for the first time?


Please note that only relative adverbs come after nouns and modify them. Otherwise, they are not relative adverbs, they are nominal relative pronouns. Compare the following examples:

This is where I was born.

Here, 'where' is a nominal relative pronoun.

That was the day when he cut me off from his life.

As you can see, 'when' is modifying the noun before it therefore it is a relative adverb.

Relative Adverb: When

When is an adverb of time. So, when we want to specify the time in a statement, we use this relative adverb. Let us take a look at the following examples:

I remember the time when I dreamed of flying.

As you can see, the sentence is referring to the time.

She cannot believe there were days when she beat her children for no reason.

Relative Adverb: Why

Another common relative adverb among English speakers is When which is an adverb of reason. Pay attention to the following examples:

The reason why she suddenly left is unknown.

As you can see, the person is searching for a reason to find.

The reason why I don't like to have children is that bringing them up is difficult.


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