Relative Adverbs

What Are Relative Adverbs? (with Examples)

The relative adverbs are where, when, and why. A relative adverb is an adverb that introduces an adjective clause. Each one has its own role: A relative adverb is used to start a description for a noun. (This description is called an adjective clause.) For example: Note: When a noun like seat has accompanying modifiers (here, the seat), it is known as a noun phrase.

When To Use a Comma before a Relative Adverb

In each of the examples above, the adjective clause (shaded) identifies the noun. When this happens, it is known as a restrictive clause, and it is not offset with commas (i.e., there is no comma before the relative adverb). Occasionally, however, the clause headed by a relative adverb just gives us some additional information. When this happens, it is known as a non-restrictive clause, and it is offset with commas. For example: Non-restrictive clauses are far more common with relative pronouns (e.g., that, which, who) than with relative adverbs.

You Can Often Replace a Relative Adverb with a Preposition and Which

A relative adverb can nearly always be replaced with a preposition and the relative pronoun which. For example: Of note, some people still consider the "[preposition] + which" versions to be more formal. This view is outdated in our opinion. To the modern ear, these versions sound awkward.

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See Also

What is an interrogative adverb? What is an adjective clause? What is a restrictive clause? What is a non-restrictive clause? What are relative pronouns? Glossary of grammatical terms