General Writing and Grammar Help/Adjective Clause


Dear Ted,

Can an adjective clause start with a word that is not a relative pronoun or a relative adverb?

Thank you



Dear Rich:

FOLLOW UP:  I have found that there is a term "relative adverb."  It refers to the adverbs I listed in my original message.  The words "when, why, and where" are called "relative adverbs" by some people:



Can an adjective clause start with a word that is not a relative pronoun or a
relative adverb?

*** First, there is no such thing as a "relative adverb."  Second, even if there were "relative adverbs," they would never start an ADJECTIVE CLAUSE.  That would be a case of mixing apples and oranges.

*** Almost ALL adjective clauses begin with relative pronouns.  There are some exceptions, and this may be why you came up with "relative adverb."  Such adverbs are "when, where, or why" may begin adjective clauses . . . . BUT . . . 99.5% begin with relative pronouns.

Using these adverbs essentially as relative pronouns is something that resulted from "common usage."  Many purists argue that such usage is very poor grammar.  But, most people tend to use them anyway.


This is the church WHERE I married my wife.  [Common usage]
This is the church IN WHICH I married my wife.  [Purist]

There was a time WHEN neighbors were friendly with each other. [Common usage]
There was a time DURING WHICH neighbors were friendly with each other [Purist]


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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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