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 are adverbs that are used to introduce a dependent clause that functions as an adverbial modifier in a sentence. There are three relative adverbs in English: 'where', 'when', and 'why'.

Relative Adverbs: Functions

Relative adverbs can be both the subject and the object of a sentence, and can also serve as a conjunction to connect relative clauses to nouns and pronouns in other clauses. Their main functions are as follows:

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

Relative Adverbs and Adjective Clauses

Relative adverbs can be used to introduce adjective clauses that provide more information about a noun in a sentence. By using a relative adverb, we can start an adjective clause that describes the noun in greater detail. Pay attention to the following examples:

Clause 1: This is the school.

Clause 2: I studied philosophy.

Now, let us see how we can connect these clauses 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 a relative adverb of place that is commonly used to specify a location in an adverbial clause. By using 'where,' we can provide additional information about there place where an action or event is taking place. 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?


It's important to note that relative adverbs come after nouns and modify them; otherwise, they are not considered relative adverbs, but rather 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 we use it to specify the time in a statement. Let us take a look at some examples:

I remember the time when I dreamed of flying.

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

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

Relative Adverb: Why

Another common relative adverb in English is 'why', which is used to introduce adverbial clauses of reason. It provides additional information about the cause or motivation for an action or event in a sentence. 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.

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


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