1

I am not a native speaker. So please excuse my "silly" question.

I have learned in my school that one can only use the word "where" in contexts describing locations, positions [or directions]. But I have come across two sentences used by a native speaker and I wonder if they are correct.

1) It can fill in details where experimental methods cannot.

2) Computer simulations are accurate on predicting molecular motions but work poorly where quantum effects are important.

Can someone explain to me why he can use the word "where"? Many thanks!

| improve this question | | | | |
  • 3
    You have been taught wrong, about this and probably many other things. Where can be used for many things other than strict locations and positions. Before asking a question on a StackExchange site, though, you should always try to answer the question yourself and include your attempts to do so and your research in the question. Questions that show no prior research are considered to be off-topic here and are likely to be closed; I would advise you to look up where in some online dictionaries first; if that doesn’t answer your question for you, add your remaining doubts to the question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 29 '15 at 23:09
  • English uses many metaphors. Not just the 'Tim's a tiger!' sort, but extended ones. The ones in your examples are only mild broadenings of locational usages to situations in general. AHDEL gives for the wh-question: In what situation or position: Where would we be without your help? [Whence 'I don't know where we'd be without your help.' and 'This is where the mixture exploded last time we did the experiment.'] AHDEL goes even further from the locative/directional sense: Whereas: That model has an attractive design, where this one is more dependable. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 '15 at 23:31
  • @janus bahs jacquet Thank you for your comment. And yes, I have read some grammar rules for "where" in a few dictionary-webpages but i did not understand them. Therefore, i wrote a posting here. For me, an explanation from a person is easier to understand and more accurate regarding to my question. Anyway, thx! – dummy2k Mar 30 '15 at 10:48
  • In that case, you should paste what the references you looked in said, and state what it is about that that you don’t understand (e.g., “The ABC dictionary says this about where: [pasted reference]; but I don’t understand what they mean by XYZ”). Otherwise, you’re likely to just get a similar reference as an answer here, which won’t really help you. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 30 '15 at 10:55
1

1) It can fill in details where experimental methods cannot.

You can think of this one this way:

It can fill in details in situations where experimental methods cannot.

2) Computer simulations are accurate on predicting molecular motions but work poorly where quantum effects are important.

You can think of this one this way:

Computer simulations are accurate on predicting molecular motions but work poorly in situations where quantum effects are important.

Do you see that situations are kind of like places? I think the rule of thumb you learned is useful in general.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • Thank you! That is a very good explanation. I think i have understand that now :) – dummy2k Mar 30 '15 at 10:50
-1

Your examples can be understood like this:

1) It can fill details where experimental methods cannot.

It can fill in details on the list of details, where(in those places on the list of details) experimental methods cannot.

2) Computer simulations are accurate on predicting molecular motions but working poorly where quantum effects are important.

Computer simulations are accurate in the field of predicting molecular motions, but work poorly where (in the field in which) quantum effects are important.

So, you see that we do have locations or positions, but they do not need to be directly expressed or spelled. Nor do they need to be literal- they may be poetic, metaphorical, and so on.

| improve this answer | | | | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.