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There were two sentences I wrote:

  1. We did a science experiment where we dissected frogs.
  2. This is the last day where I'll be waiting for you by your locker.

I'm not sure if where can be used as a conjunction... I've been using it as a conjunction, but this is the first time I've actually noticed it.

If using where as a conjunction (in the form I wrote as above), would it be grammatically correct? If so, please explain why. Why can where be a conjunction if the word means location? And, what do you have to put a comma before where if it can be used as a conjunction?

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3 Answers

'Where' is correct in example 1, but not needed in 2) as the locker is the location. All that's needed for that is to say "...last day I'll be waiting...'

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"Where" is not correct in either case. It is not a conjunction, but a preposition which provides identification of a location. So you could say, "This is the lake where I will be waiting for you." In your two examples, you have "where" referring to an activity (science experiment) and a segment of time ("last day"). The experiment would properly be identified by "in which." But, Amanda, "where" in the second example does not refer to the locker; it is structured to refer to the "last day," which is incorrect. –  John M. Landsberg Mar 14 '13 at 7:26
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@JohnM.Landsberg Where is not a preposition. It is either a subordinating conjunction, or a "relative adverb" introducing an adjective clause, in both cases. It's the wrong one in (2) -- that should be when because it's explicitly dealing with time. –  Andrew Leach Mar 14 '13 at 7:46
    
@AndrewLeach: When, really? I'm not sure I agree... –  Cerberus Mar 14 '13 at 7:51
    
@AndrewLeach You're oorrect. I can't edit the comment at this point, however, so I'll say IGNORE THAT ERROR; delete sentence number two. The rest of my comment stands. –  John M. Landsberg Mar 14 '13 at 7:57
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@AndrewLeach: This is the last day when I'll be waiting for you by your locker. — I'm sorry, but that doesn't sound right to me...it's hard to say why. Perhaps because when is not used for a period of time, and the last day refers to a period (every day up to and including this day)? Or just because that / void exerts so much pressure? I would definitely say This is the last day (that) I'll be waiting for you by your locker. –  Cerberus Mar 14 '13 at 8:04
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Where is a relative adverbial pronoun of location, and relative pronouns can introduce relative clauses. Normally, it refers back to a location; however, the place–time conceptual metaphor is extremely common in Indo-European languages, and where can also be used to refer to a time or occasion. It is correctly so used in your first example, as in we dissected frogs in this experiment, where in uses the same conceptual metaphor of place for time. But it does sound a little bit informal.

In your second example, where is slightly less normal, probably because (elliptical) that is normally used after specific words indicating a time, such as day, moment, year, etc. I think that or a void is certainly preferable to your where, but it is probably acceptable. You can usually use where in sentences where you could replace it with in which or at which, but that is not possible here.

As to the comma, I would say the same rules apply as to other relative clauses: use a comma with non-defining relative clauses, but no comma with defining ones.

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Where as a conjunction is acceptable in informal writing and communication (it is considered 'non-standard'). So if you are writing an informal letter or email, both examples are fine. However, if you are writing something formal, both examples would have to be revised.

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And no commas are needed in either if used informally and kept as is. –  ProfB Nov 12 '13 at 1:04
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