This is the house where he was murdered.

How is adverb “where” modifying the verb “was murdered”? It doesn't seem to be behaving like an adverb.


First off, the verb in this sentence is not 'was murdered'; it's 'is'.

"This is the house" is the basic subject-verb-object structure of the sentence.

The word 'where' serves as a conjunction linking the phrase 'he was murdered' to the noun 'house'.

See conjunction definition 3 of 'where' at MW, which includes an example that's parallel to your sentence.

at, in, or to which place 'the town where she lives'

  • 'murdered" is a participle here, and participles are considered verbs in many grammatical analyses.
    – herisson
    Aug 9 '18 at 18:31
  • 1
    @sumelic This is the result the terrible terminology used in 'SVO'-speak. The verb is is the Predicator in the matrix clause sentence, not the verb murdered. Aug 9 '18 at 18:41
  • @Araucaria: I hadn't realized that "the verb" had an unambiguous definition in syntax. In any case, I would appreciate it if this answer gave a less abbreviated explanation
    – herisson
    Aug 9 '18 at 18:42
  • @sumelic I agree. There's quite a lot I'd like to be different here, but I don't reckon any downvote's warranted ... Aug 9 '18 at 20:51

"This is the house where he was murdered" is a complex sentence. In addition to the main clause (which as John Feltz says has the same structure as the simple sentence "This is the house"), it contains a dependent clause: the relative clause "where he was murdered", which modifies "the house".

The internal structure of the relative clause "where he was murdered" seems to be the same as that of the sentence "He was murdered there". (These two clauses have different word orders because wh-words like "where" are "fronted" in various contexts in English.)

The function of "there" in a sentence like "He was murdered there" seems to be the same as the function of a prepositional phrase in a sentence like "He was murdered in that house". Prepositional phrases used like this are sometimes termed "adverbial phrases" or "adverb phrases".

So, where in this sentence is a single word that functions like the "adverb phrase" "in that house", which I think is why it may be called an "adverb". My understanding is that other terminological systems use the word "adjunct" to refer to the same function. Related ELL question: Why is 'where' an adverb and not a pronoun?

A number of terminological systems for describing English grammar exist, and I have the impression that "where" is not always categorized as an adverb. Its behavior is more similar in some respects to that of a preposition, or in other respects it is similar to a pronoun (in this case, a relative pronoun). I had forgotten before reading John Feltz's answer that it can also be seen as a conjunction; some previous questions that discuss this are A relative adverb or a conjunction or both? and "Where" as a conjunction.

  • The relative clause is part of the main clause. More specifically it is part of the noun phase the house where he was murdered. The main perpetrator of the adverb phrase (phrasal category) misnomer for adverbial phrase/adjunct (grammatical relation/syntactic function) or adverb (word category), who has any weight is McCawley. He however stated in later editions of his work, that this was a huge and embarrassing oversight. PP's with the grammatical relation label of "adverbial" are not adverbs and no upstanding syntactician maintains that they are on purpose. Aug 9 '18 at 21:06
  • By the way, your downvote (and JohnF's) are not mine!!! I'd like to see you edit your post, though. But that's my personal opinion. Aug 9 '18 at 21:11
  • @Araucaria: Thanks; could you give a bit more description of the changes you'd like to see? I didn't think I ever said that the relative clause wasn't part of the main clause. In fact, trying to avoid that is why I said the main clause "has the same structure as" This is the house, rather than saying that the main clause is "This is the house." I said that there are two clauses in the sentence. The relative clause is a different clause from the main clause: that doesn't mean it is outside of the main clause.
    – herisson
    Aug 9 '18 at 21:12
  • @Araucaria: re: "adverb phrase": I hadn't realized that it was currently considered entirely erroneous terminology by everyone. In any case, it seems to show up so often in various resources that I think it would be good to mention it, to clarify that it means the same thing as "adverbial phrase". Would you like me to add a disclaimer saying that it is a bad, wrong term?
    – herisson
    Aug 9 '18 at 21:14
  • Well, there's nothing wrong with the term "adverb phrase" at all. It's just that, similarly to noun phrases being phrases built around a head noun, and ajdective phrases being built around a head adjective, adverb phrases are built around a head adverb: "extremely differently from how it was done before", for example, which is a phrase built around the adverb differently. Adverb phrases very often consist of one word phrases. In that house, of course, has a preposition in as its head - there's no adverb there at all! Aug 9 '18 at 23:11

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