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When it's OK to omit "where?" For example, is it OK to omit it in the following sentence?

This is the one of the few places (where) you can breathe real air.

In which situations one's not allowed to do this?

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    Everywhere where the meaning does not change, and there's no possible ambiguity, where & that can and are commonly dropped (elided).
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 5:47
  • Also when (... the day [ ] the butterfly unfurls from the cocoon); who / whom (a woman [ ] I know). Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 9:58
  • @Kris Omitting that is nonstandard when the relative clause contains a gap in subject position.
    – user28567
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 10:15
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    Isn't that covered by Kris's 'where the meaning does not change, and there's no possible ambiguity'? -'What's that noise I can Hear?' – 'The new people that moved in next door.' v 'The new people moved in next door.' Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 11:14

3 Answers 3

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You can generally omit where when the head noun suggests a place:

 1a. This is the one of the few places [ where you can breathe real air. ]
 1b. This is the one of the few places [ you can breathe real air. ]

Here, the head noun is place, which of course suggests a place. However:

 2a. This is the web page [ where the claim was first made. ]
 2b. *This is the web page [ the claim was first made. ]

Example 2b is ungrammatical because web page is unlikely to suggest a place.

(Examples 2a and 2b are taken from "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" by Huddleston and Pullum, page 185.)


In this answer, * marks a sentence as ungrammatical in standard English.

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  • I disagree; the restriction is far tighter. *This is one of the few beaches you can safely bathe. */??Blackpool is one location you will find plenty of places to eat. Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 9:57
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    I disagree; the restriction is far tighter. *This is one of the few beaches you can safely bathe. */??Blackpool is one location you will find plenty of places to eat. See also (the end of) Araucaria's (2016) answer at 'Isn't that the place which kids under 12 can't enter?' – is it correct ...?. Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 10:10
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When the word where changes the meaning of the sentence you are not allowed to omit it.

For example:

In the goldmine, where the dwarfs work, the air is unbearable.

where refers to the goldmine. But when you remove it, the sentence is no longer correct.

*In the goldmine, the dwarfs work, the air is unbearable.

You would have to change it to:

The dwarfs work in the goldmine. The air is unbearable.

And that still doesn't completely mean what the first sentence means.

The second would be questions indicating location.

Where is ...

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    This is not an answer, because it assumes what the OP is asking: how do you know that "when you remove it, the sentence is no longer correct".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 10:25
  • This answer applies to the OP's question, and it's basically the same as snailboat's answer, I just answered first and used wording that everyone understands. There is no reason for the downvote @Colin Fine
    – MilanSxD
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 10:38
  • No it isn't the same. How is one to know whether or not where changes the meaning of the sentence? Snailboat answered that question, you ignored it; but it is essentially what the OP was asking.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 10:40
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This is basically a special feature of the noun place. For many other nouns that have similar meanings, it's not possible to omit where.

I posted an answer to another question that gives more details: Relative pronouns "where" and "when": where can they be omitted?

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