This Macmillan dictionary suggests that the when/whenever/where/wherever possible are synonyms:

when or where you have an opportunity to do something. I relax with a good book whenever possible.

However, I've seen this answer (it seems from a native speaker) on this forum.wordreference.com post:

It seems obvious to me that "when" refers to time and "where" to place.

Call me when possible. (= call when you have time)

Walk where possible. (= walk wherever you can or are allowed to)

In the above exercise the obvious answer should be "when" because it refers to time, unless I'm missing something.

It suggests that they are different. I'm confused. I've also seen this example from the Potter book:

Always brought people in alive where possible.

In this case, can we put: Always brought people in alive when/whenever/wherever possible.? Would they mean the same thing?

  • Very interesting. Have never give any considerations before. You are genius. – Kentaro Dec 25 '18 at 15:12

where can refer to context or situation.

Where there's an indication of domestic abuse, the clinician must inform the authorities.

That phrase is synonymous with "In situations where..."

Consider the word situation itself, which comes into English from medieval Latin and medieval French. By that time it is figurative, since it doesn't really refer to a place (Medieval Latin situare) but to a set of circumstances. Oops, now you must consider the word circumstances, whose meaning is itself founded on a spatial metaphor.

  • So "when/whenever/wherever possible" are not synonyms? Can we replace where with when/wherever/whenever here? – dan Dec 27 '18 at 12:57
  • In my example, when and whenever could be used too. Whenever would connote a bit more obligation or urgency. But there are times when whenever cannot be used in place of when: Wake me whenever it's 2PM. It's not helpful to think of such words as synonyms. Call me when you get there means call me upon your arrival there. Call me whenever you get there means call me upon your arrival whatever time that happens to be, if you can't say now what that time will be. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 27 '18 at 14:07
  • I'm particularly interested in the usage of the phrases "When possible", "where possible", "wherever possible" and "whatever possible". – dan Dec 28 '18 at 4:29
  • 1
    When possible and where possible are interchangeable as are whenever possible and wherever possible. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 28 '18 at 13:57

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