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I am confused as to why the "where" in the sentence

One domain where this is of considerable significance is music's potentially damaging effects on the ability to drive safely.

cannot be a "which". Same goes for the sentence

It had long been something of a mystery where, and on what, the northern fur seals of the eastern Pacific feed during the winter, which they spend off the coast of North America from California to Alaska.

Why can't the "which" in the sentence be a "when"?

  • Who told you it couldn't be a "when"? – J.R. Jun 27 '17 at 0:04
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    In your first sentence, you can't replace where with which, but you can replace it with in which. – snailcar Jun 27 '17 at 1:37
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Basically the reason why is because they would have to be different sentences

One domain where this is of considerable significance
One domain in which this is of considerable significance

feed during the winter, which they spend off the coast of North America
feed during the winter, when they are off the coast of North America

it can not be a straight substitution.

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They subject spend transitive verb the winter direct object off the coast locative complement.

...during the winter, which they spend off the coast.

which acts as a proxy for the winter. The transitive verb spends needs an object; hence, which.

The need for an object for transitive verb spend is also why when cannot be substituted for which.

... during the winter, when they spend off the coast. ungrammatical

These would be grammatical:

... during the winter, when they spend time off the coast.

... during the winter, when they live intransitive verb off the coast.

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