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This is a question from a text book. "Mr. Thompson wrote to the main office to find out ( ) his budget would be for the following year." There are 4 options given. (A) what (B) who (C) when (D) it The answer (A) is given in this case. I can agree with that, but I also feel that "(C) when" can be used in this case. If it is not allowed to "when" grammatically, could you please advise me the reason.

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You cannot use “when” because “his budget” is not an event that happens at a point in time. “When” is only used in situations where time is involved. If you provide your reasoning on why you think “when” works, I can give you a more specific answer.

  • Thank you very much. Your explanation is very convincing. Now I can understand "when" cannot be used in this sentence. For my confirmation, it is acceptable to use "when" in the following sentence? [Mr. Thompson wrote to the main office to find out when the next monthly meeting would be held next month.] – yoshi810 Jul 26 '19 at 0:12
  • Yes, that works – Morrison Bower Jul 26 '19 at 0:45
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You can use "when" to introduce a single completed event that takes place in the middle of a longer activity or event. In these cases, you usually use a continuous verb in the main clause to describe the background event:

He was walking back to his flat when he heard an explosion.

Depending on the context, when can mean ‘after’ or ‘at the same time’.

Compare:

When you open the file, check the second page. - when meaning ‘after’

I eat ice cream when I am on holiday. - when meaning ‘at the same time’

We often use "just" with "when" or "as" to express things happening at exactly the same time:

The phone always rings just when I’m closing the front door.

She was a brilliant gymnast, but she had a terrible accident in 1999, just as her career was taking off.

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