I know the relative adverb "where" can be used in a non-defining relative clause like this.

"I've just come back from London, where John lives."

Can I use "in which" instead of "where" in this sentence?

"I've just come back from London, in which John lives."

Is the latter grammatically correct and functionally equivalent with no difference in meaning?

Is there any grammar rule that we can't use commas in front of "in which"?

  • You can use "..., in which John lives", but I don't recommend it. In my opinion, "..., where John lives" is preferable. – tautophile May 12 '18 at 4:48
  • The grammar is fine, but it's idiomatically awkward. The first thing I think of when it's used in your sentence is the house in which John lives. But then I have to correct myself. Also, there's a strange dissonance when switching subjects between I and John in the in which construction. – Jason Bassford May 12 '18 at 6:47
  • But to specifically answer your question about the comma, there is a difference in meaning. Using the comma makes in which John lives a nonessential element. It would be the same as writing I've just come back from London (in which John lives). But without the comma, it makes it necessary information. (And without the comma, in which becomes even more awkward.) – Jason Bassford May 12 '18 at 6:52

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