For example in a sentence like "This is the place where he was murdered", is where functioning as both a relative adverb and a relative pronoun?

Here where acts as pronoun as it refers back to its antecedent and also as relative adverb (according to Wren and Martin) but what i want to know is

  1. Do they always work in this way?

  2. A lot of places I have seen that simply say that the word where modifies noun, a lot of grammar books say but How? Like it isn't adding something to the meaning of verb (was assaulted). Instead of telling me that this is a relative adverb I want an explanation or is it something that just needs to be classified as what renowned grammarians have classified because I haven't quite come up with any reason that proves it. One reason I could come up with was that where modifies the verb by relating a clause (this is the place) with it.

  • You've got to have loose definitions of "pronoun" or "adverb" to handle this. It's rather complicated, as this answer explains. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


A relative pronoun serves a function in its relative clause. "Where" is considered to be a relative pronoun when it is used in a relative clause.

The relative clause as a whole may serve as an adverb.
=> We will start [where we left off yesterday]. [adverb clause] (Where?)

This is [where we left off]. (noun clause = this)


The relative adverb, like the relative pronoun, introduces the adjectival dependent clause, and it, too, has its antecedent in the main clause. The relative adverbs are when, where, and why which give more information about a time, a place, or a reason for which the main clause expresses an interest. They are used formally to take the place of the preposition-plus-which construction, as in the following examples:

  1. There is the place to which we are heading becomes There is the place where we are heading.

  2. There was a time during which I would have absolutely disagreed becomes There was a time when I would have absolutely disagreed.

  3. The reason for which I commented was that I had another idea becomes The reason why I commented was that I had another idea.

As far as the word where as a relative pronoun is concerned, it is not a relative pronoun. It is a relative adverb that actually replaces the preposition + which (relative pronoun) combination that would be used in formal discourse.

By definition, a relative adverb, just as the relative pronoun that takes the place of the noun or pronoun that is its antecedent does, introduces a relative (adjectival) clause. It has a time (when), a place (where), or a reason (why) as its antecedent. The whole clause may indeed by its nature tell more about the verb of the main clause, and therefore have an adverbial nature, but its primary function is to modify (tell more about) its antecedent.

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