Can the following sentences:

It's the church where the painting burned./It's the church in which the painting burned.

be transformed so that they do not contain the pronoun which/where in the following way:

It's the church the painting burnt in.

  • 3
    You can certainly do it, and the meaning would be clear. But if you aspire to speak eloquently, it would be better to stick with one of the originals.
    – WS2
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 8:35
  • Note that you have an ongoing ambiguity; 'it' may be non-referential. Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 9:36
  • I see this wasn't what you were asking, and "…the church the painting burnt in" will always be wrong. Didn't you mean either "the painting was burnt" or "the painting burned"? Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


Yes, the relative pronoun can be omitted.

In informal styles, we often leave out the relative pronoun. We only do this in defining relative clauses, and when the relative pronoun is the object of the verb. We don’t leave out the relative pronoun when it is the subject of the verb nor in non-defining relative clauses [...]

("English Grammar Today", CUP)

In your example you have a defining relative clause.

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