English Grammar: How to Use Relative Pronouns Where/When/Whose in Adjective Clauses

English Level: Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate

Language Focus: An explanation of how to use the relative pronouns where, when, and whose. Includes several exercises.

Worksheet Downloadadjective-clause-worksheet-esl.docx (scroll down to study the exercises online)

Jump to: Relative Pronouns Where/When, Relative Pronoun WhoseFinal Exercises


Note: An adjective clause and relative clause are the same. We will use the word adjective clause.

This is the second lesson on adjective clauses. There are three lessons in this unit:

  1. Lesson 1: Making adjective clauses with subject and object relative pronouns
  2. Lesson 2: Using the relative pronouns where, when, and which
  3. Lesson 3: Punctuating adjective clauses (with commas)

In our previous lesson, we learned how to use the relative pronouns ‘who/whom/that/which‘ in adjective clauses. This lesson will focus on where, when, and whose.

Before we go further, let’s review the relative pronouns.

Relative Pronouns for Adjective Clauses

who

 

subject and object pronoun for people only. (*whom can be used as an object relative pronoun.)

E.g. The man who(m) I saw was old.

thatsubject and object pronoun for people and things.

E.g. The book that I saw was red.

whichsubject and object pronoun for things only.

E.g. The book, which I saw, was red.

whoseused for possessions.

E.g. The man whose house was for sale was old.

whereused for places.

E.g. The restaurant where we met was downtown.

whenused for times.

E.g. The day when we met was cloudy.

Adjective Clauses: Using When as a Relative Pronoun

‘When’ is used for places, of course. But sometimes places can be things. This can be confusing. Let’s look at two examples.

John lives in a town. The town is near the ocean.

Now, the first step in making an adjective clause is finding a word in each sentence that refers to the same thing.

John lives in a town. The town is near the ocean.

The next step is replacing the second word (‘The town’) with a relative pronoun (who/whom/that/which/where/when/whose).

Which relative pronoun are we going to use?  Well, ‘The town’ is a place, but in the sentence, The town is near the ocean, the words ‘The town’ are the subject. This means we should use a subject relative pronoun, which are who/that/which. Because ‘The town‘ is the subject and a thing, we’ll use that or which.

John lives in a town. [that/which] is near the ocean.

Next, we would move the {adjective clause} behind the noun it modifies (a town), but it is already in the right place. So the full sentence looks like this:

John lives in a town {which is near the ocean}.

So When Do We Use the Relative Pronouns Where (and When)?

We only use where or when to replace words that are not the subjects of a sentence. Here’s an example:

John lives in a town. He works in the town.

If we look at the second sentence, He works in the town, we can see that the subject is ‘He’. The word town is not the subject and it is not the object of a verb either. It is an adverb of place.

Rule: When the place or time is not the subject or object, then you can use the relative pronouns where and when.

Let’s continue following our steps.

Step 2: Replace the second word with a relative pronoun.

John lives in a town. He works in the town WHERE.

Step 3: Move the relative pronoun to the beginning of the second sentence/clause.

John lives in a town. WHERE He works in the town.

Step 4: Move the {adjective clause} behind the noun it modifies.

John lives in a town {where he works}.

 

A seaside town, where we practice adjective clauses

John lives in a town where he works. Maybe he is a fisherman. 


That’s it. You might have noticed that if the noun (e.g. ‘town’) has prepositions or articles (e.g. ‘in the’) that belong to it, then we remove the prepositions or articles too.

Let’s do another example with a time.

I love spring. The birds sing songs in spring.

Step 1: Find two words that refer to the same thing in each sentence.

I love spring. The birds sing songs in spring.

So, let’s look at the sentence, The birds sing in spring.

  • Is spring the subject? (No — ‘The birds’ is the subject)
  • Is spring the object of a verb (No — the noun ‘songs’ is the object of the verb ‘sing’)

Okay, so then we can use the relative pronoun ‘when’.

Step 2: Replace the noun with the relative pronoun.

I love spring. The birds sing songs in spring WHEN.

Step 3: Move the noun to the beginning of the clause.

I love springWHEN the birds sing songs in spring .

Step 4: Move the {adjective clause} behind the noun it modifies

I love spring {when the birds sing songs}.

 

To summarize, we do not use when and where to replace subjects or objects. We use them to replace adverbs (of time or place).

Quickly, let’s look at two sentences that refer to the same ‘house’. How would we combine them?

I live in a house. The house has a swimming pool. (‘House’ is a subject in the second sentence).

= I live in a house {that/which has a swimming pool}.

I live in a house. I bought the house. (‘house’ the object of the verb bought in the second sentence).

= I live in a house {that/which/(nothing) I bought}.

I live in a house. My wife also lives in the house. (‘house’ is not a subject or an object here (it is an adverb).)

= I live in a house {where my wife also lives}.

The rules are the same for when.

Note: We can also replace adverbs like ‘here’ or ‘then’ with relative pronouns. For example.

I can meet you tomorrow. I’ll be free then.

What does ‘then’ refer to? Tomorrow. So, we can replace it with the relative pronoun ‘when’, and make a complex sentence with an adjective clause:

I can meet you tomorrow {when I’ll be free}.

Let’s practice.

Exercise #1 – Making Adjective Clauses with Where and When

Change the second sentence into an adjective clause, and then add it to the first sentence.

1. There are a lot of shopping malls downtown. I want to live downtown.
Show Answer

2. My best friend lives in the town. + I was born there.

Show Answer

3. On Friday it was raining. We met on Friday.

Show Answer

4. Let’s meet early next week. I will have more time then.

Show Answer

5. The Internet is huge. You can find anything you want on the Internet.

Show Answer

 

Note: You may have noticed that sometimes I have put commas in the answers. You can learn about how to use commas in adjective clauses in the next lesson on defining and non-defining adjective clauses.

Exercise #2 – Choose the Correct Relative Pronoun

In the next exercise, you will select a correct relative pronoun. Scroll up and re-read the table if you need to review which pronouns are used for subjects, objects, or other (adverbs).

For example:

October is a month ___ is in autumn.

If we look at ” ___ is in autumn”, we can see that it is missing a subject, so we need a subject relative pronoun (that/which).

October is a month ___ I love.

If we look at “___ I love”, we can see that there is already a subject (“I”). Also, October is what you love (it is the object of the verb). So we use an object relative pronoun (that/which/(nothing)).

October is the month __ I met Jill.

If we look at “___ I met Jill”, we can see that there is already a subject (“I”) and already an object (Jill is the object of met). So, we can use a pronoun for an adverb (when/where)

Give it a try!

  1. The house  I want to buy is too expensive.
  2. The house  I was born is in a small town.
  3. The house  burned down was on Main Street.
  4. That was a time  I needed to be patient.
  5. That was a time  I will always remember.
  6. That was a time  was difficult to forget.

  

  1. 1998 was the year  I got married.
  2. Friday is the day  I love the most.
  3. I hid the food  the dog couldn’t find it.
  4. I heard the news in the morning  I was brushing my teeth.
  5. The Nile is the river  flows through twelve African countries.
  6. We saw the island  Napoleon had lived.

  

 

Let’s learn one more thing before we do more exercises.

Adjective Clauses: Whose as a Relative Pronoun

Whose is another relative pronoun that is not used for objects or subjects. It is used for possessions. For example:

The boy stood up. The teacher had called his name.

Step 1: What is the same here in these two sentences? Well, none of the words are. However, ‘his’ refers to the ‘boy’, which is the first sentence, so we can make an adjective clause.

The boy stood up. The teacher had called his name.

Step 2: Replace the second word with the correct relative pronoun — here will use ‘whose‘ because the name belongs to the boy (it’s his possession).

The boy stood up. The teacher had called hisWHOSE name.

Step 3: Move the relative pronoun (whose) and the noun it modifies to the beginning of the clause.

The boy stood up {WHOSE name the teacher had called}.

Step 4: Move the {adjective clause} behind the noun it describes (the boy)

The boy {whose name the teacher had called} stood up.

That’s it. It’s the same basically, except you move the relative pronoun whose and the noun it modifies. Let’s do some exercises.

 

Exercise #4 – Making Adjective Clauses with the Pronoun Whose

1. That’s the actress. Her husband was in the movie. Show Answer

2. There were students at the party. I didn’t know their names.

Show Answer

3. She works at a bank. Its head office is on Queen St.

Show Answer

4. Susie is my friend. You met her parents last night.

Show Answer

5. I met two people from Japan yesterday. Their names were Mai and Yuko.

Show Answer

Now, it’s time for our final exercises. Let’s bring it all together.


Exercise #5 – Places, Times, and Possessives in Adjective Clause

Change the second sentences into adjective clauses. Use subject relative pronouns (who/that/which), object relative pronouns (whom/that/which), as well as use when/where/whose.

Don’t worry about commas now if you haven’t studied them yet.

1. I study at a college. It has many courses. Show Answer

2. I was born in 1978. My best friend Jay was born in 1978.

Show Answer

3. The people were very welcoming. We visited their house.

Show Answer

4. Cheryl’s family goes camping every August. She loves August.

Show Answer

5. 11:30 is the time. My flight departs then.

Show Answer

6. September is busy at the college. It is the beginning of fall semester.

Show Answer

7. The man yelled at me. I hit his car with my car.

Show Answer

8. The company sells baked goods. I applied to work there once.

Show Answer

Exercise #6 – Select the Correct Relative Pronoun

  1. My wife,  name is Margaret, likes to travel.
  2. We went on a trip last summer,  I wasn’t working.
  3. We visited a park  had a beautiful garden.
  4. We sat in the garden  we could also see birds.
  5. I saw a beautiful bird  feathers were purple and red.
  6. On that day, we met a nice Swedish couple  English was quite good.
  7. They invited us to visit them in the Swedish countryside  they had a big house.
  8. I told them that maybe we could visit them next year  we should have free time.

  

 

I hope you now understand how to use the relative pronouns where, when, and whose. It’s not easy. If you were confused, please review the first lesson on subject and object relative pronouns.

If you have any questions or if you find a mistake, please leave a comment below.

— Matthew Barton (copyright) / Creator of Englishcurrent.com

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