Please see the following sentences;

1-1. This is the house which I was born in.

1-2. This is the house I was born in. (after cancellation of the relative pronoun 'which')

2-1. This is the house where I was born.

2-2. This is the house I was born. (after cancellation of the relative adverb 'where')

According to the above thinking process, can I say both 'This is the house I was born in' and 'This is the house I was born'?

If both sentences are correct grammatically, which sentence sounds more natural to you native speakers?

Thank you.

3 Answers 3


I was born in

As that stands, something is obviously missing. The preposition "in" lacks an object.*

the house I was born in

Here, we can find the thing that was obviously missing before, even though it's in an unusual place. The object of "in" is "the house". I was born in that house.


I was born

As that stands, nothing is missing. There is no function word that lacks an argument. There is no preposition or verb in search of some other word to make it make sense.

the house I was born

Here, there is nothing to connect "I was born" to "the house". The two sets of words have no relationship, and the reader has no idea why all those words appear together in that order.


We can describe the first case in terms of an optional relative pronoun:

the house [that/which] I was born in

And so grammar books describe a rule stating that a relative pronoun which is not the subject of its subordinate clause can be removed. However, there is no such rule about relative adverbs.

The reason is that a "cancelled" relative pronoun leaves a grammatical gap, and that gap itself shows us how the subordinate clause is related to the preceding phrase. When you attempt to cancel an adverb, there is no grammatical gap left behind. You haven't elided an argument; you simply haven't supplied an adjunct. There is nothing to attach the clause to its intended modificand.

Don't attempt to cancel a relative adverb. It leads to nonsense.


*    Not every "in" requires an object. There are, for example, several phrasal verbs that use an intransitive "in": done in (meaning defeated or exhausted) and taken in (meaning deceived) leap to mind. The verb "born" doesn't have such a phrasal use. When "in" modifies "born", we naturally expect it to have a clear object.

This is the house I was born.

is completely incorrect usage. It's barely comprehensible.

So, instead, use any of:

This is the house I was born in.
This is the house which I was born in.
This is the house where I was born.

but only if you mean that the birth occurred in the house; your mom gave birth there and not in a hospital! It does not mean "this is the house where I have lived since I was born".

They all sound natural and are almost identical in meaning.


You can omit relative pronouns (which/that) as long as it relates to the object of the relative clause or of a prepositional phrase that is part of the relative clause. You can't omit it if it reporesents the subject of the relative clause.

This is the house [which/that] I was born in. - OK

You cannot omit relative adverbs.

This is the house {where] I was born. - incorrect

Why not? Because the relative adverb provides essential information: in the case of where, it indicates that the relative clause defines a location. In the relative pronoun case, this information is provided by the preposition in, so the relative pronoun simply links the two clauses together, and can therefore be omitted.

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