2

He collects some cars that are antique.

I know the relative pronoun “that” is the subject of “are” here.


This is the letter (that) my mother sent me.

I know the relative pronoun “that” is the object of “sent” here.


But I'm not sure of this one:

I don't remember the year (that / when / in which) I bought my first car.

We can have the relative pronouns "that" and "which" here and also the relative adverb "when".

"That", "when" and "in which" (or just "which" ? ), they all act here as adverbials (adjuncts if more precise) of the relative clause "I bought my first car".


Also I'm not sure of this one:

I don't remember the year (of when) I bought my first car.

We can have the relative pronoun "when" here. "When" acts as an adverbial (an adjunct if more precise) of the relative clause "I bought my first car".


Am I right and if not, then why?

Thanks!

  • 1
    Be careful in calling anything a relative "pronoun"; you can't really conclude anything about them from such a label. That behaves very differently from which or who, and so do adverbials like where, when, and why. – John Lawler Jul 9 at 22:42
  • Good question. You could add others: "I know the reason why you said that"; :no it's just on the street where you live". oddly enough, it does not work with how. People don't say "I am impressed at the method how you did that." If it can be done with time and place, why not with means? – Tuffy Jul 9 at 23:03
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According to the Oxford English Grammar (5.9 Restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, when, where and why are to be classified as relative adverbs, and so he refers to the clauses in which they occur as relative clauses. He gives examples.

A similar scenario occurs around the margins of the Amazon basin, where farmers are forced to encroach onto the forest margins to subsist

We hear little of the day-to-day successes but only if the odd occasion when conflict arises.

But that was the one reason why I never wanted to do that again actually.

Greenbaum goes on to add that these relative adverbs can be replaced by relative pronouns, just as you have said.

Why does “I don’t know the way how you did that.” is just one of the mysteries of usage. Nobody said it. Or, if someone did, not enough for it to become established usage.

  • Do you agree with the rest of my thoughts as well? – Loviii Jul 10 at 0:41
  • @Loviii Broadly, yes. I only commented on the aspect that interested me, I suppose. I always, at my advanced age, wince, when I see the demonstrative pronoun, ‘that’, used as a relative pronoun, because I was not taught it at school. And I learned my grammar through three languages (French, Latin and Greek) where the demonstrative pronouns never serve as relative pronouns. I only learned otherwise from the repeated corrections of my laptop grammar checkers! I ought to have known from a favourite childhood poem ‘This is the house that Jack built...’ – Tuffy Jul 10 at 8:30

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