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I strongly believe that "It is in this house that he was born." is correct but I am struggling to explain why we cannot use "... where he was born." Here is my explanation below. Is my reasoning correct?

Because of “in.” Where were you born? “I was born in London.” = “London is where I was born.” = “It is London where I was born.” = “It is in London that I was born.”

  • You can use "where", which means "in this house". The relative clause would then be "where he was born ____", where gap = "where", which has "house" as antecedent. Note that this is a cleft construction. – BillJ Oct 26 '19 at 16:00
  • Usually, one would say: This is the house where he was born. English doesn't use "it is" that much here. "It is" is most often used for ideas, etc. – Lambie Oct 26 '19 at 16:33
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    The "it" indicates that it's an it- cleft construction. Non-cleft = "He was born in this house"; cleft = "It was in this house that he was born". – BillJ Oct 26 '19 at 16:40
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Nothing to do with 'in' I think.

Both are correct, but have subtly different meaning. 'It is in this house that he was born' is a complete statement. It's a long-winded way of saying 'He was born in this house', with added emphasis that he was born in THIS house, not any other.

'It is in this house where he was born' demands continuation - 'It is in this house where he was born that he first saw a rabbit'. Probably surrounding the modifying phrase with commas would be good. 'It is in this house, where he was born, that he first saw a rabbit'

You could also have the neutral statements 'This is the house where he was born'. Or 'This is the house in which he was born'. Or, somewhat antique, 'This is the house wherein he was born'. Or, slightly less ungramatically but colloquially perfectly OK, 'This is the house he was born in'. If your tutors object to this last one, tell them a native English speaker says they're being unnecessarily pedantic!

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  • +1 for demands continuation .. "It is in this house ... that something" – user2297550 Oct 26 '19 at 15:28
  • "Where he was born" is not a modifier. In a cleft construction, the relative clause is not a modifier but a postnuclear element. – BillJ Oct 26 '19 at 16:30

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