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I often find it hard to choose between "where" and "when". For instance:

  • One time, I had a dream when I was walking...
  • One time, I had a dream where I was walking...

Should I use when, since I initially mentioned a period in time ("one time")? If so, under what circumstances should I use where?

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Welcome to English Language & Usage. Please edit to clarify what exactly you are confused about and to show what references you have already consulted and what you found. Thanks. – MετάEd Apr 26 '13 at 14:08
@MετάEd Wonder how any research could help here. cf. mattacular below. – Kris Apr 26 '13 at 14:17
@Kris Anyone who wants to ask how to use English without first doing scholarly research to try to answer the question, and without posting the results of research, ought to be asking at English Language Learners, not here. – MετάEd Apr 26 '13 at 22:49
@MετάEd Some situations are opportunities to learn and change one's rigid opinions. This is one of them. – Kris Apr 27 '13 at 4:51
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both are grammatical, but they do mean different things.

When specifies the time of the dream. You had a dream at the time you were walking, which is unlikely but possible.

Where means “in which”, so in this case it serves to specify the content of the dream.

where adverb
1 at, in, or to which (used after reference to a place or situation):
    I first saw him in Paris, where I lived in the early sixties


Although the example given isn’t exactly analogous, the definition (“in which, used after a reference to a situation”) is exactly relevant.

“Once, I had a dream in which I was walking...”

[Note the use of once to indicate a non-specific time in the past, not “one time”]

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"... in which ..." is definitely superior. "... where ..." implies that the dream is a place. Metaphorically perhaps, but not literally. – David Aldridge Apr 27 '13 at 14:05

"Where I was walking..." is correct here. 'Where' denotes the place that the walking occurred and that place was your dream.

The first example:

"One time, I had a dream when I was walking..."

Implies that you were dreaming while taking a walk, which seems dangerous.

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+1 for the logic. – Kris Apr 26 '13 at 14:15

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