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I had posted this question on another Stack Exchange site, and someone told me that this is the right place to ask this kind of question. So here it goes.

I'm learning a relative adverb "where" and I'm wondering if I could replace "where" with "in which" in a context that an actual place's name is indicated.

They moved to London, where they established a large and successful legal office.

They moved to London, in which they established a large and successful legal office.

They moved to London, in which city they established a large and successful legal office.

One poster answered me that the first one is correct, the second is incorrect, and the last seems okay but pretentious. The user explained that it's not appropriate to put "in which" after a city's name. Is that correct? I'm asking this because I've come across these sentences online.

"After living in San Francisco for a short while, he moved to Seattle, in which he went to Edison Technical School."

"London, in which he lived long in Fountain Court, remained his headquarters till he settled."

England super star David Beckham moved to LA, in which a number of top players play, including the United States international Landon Donovan.

Could someone please help me understand?

  • I'm not sure that I would use "incorrect" for your second example or "pretentious" for your third. But for physical places (as in this case), where means exactly "in which location." So a native speaker might wonder why you would use two words or three words when a perfectly serviceable single word would do the trick. – user105719 Dec 18 '19 at 6:46
  • That was my comment. I would never think of using in which after the name of a city like that, but if others do, I stand corrected. – Kate Bunting Dec 18 '19 at 9:21
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I'd mostly agree with the previous answer:

One poster answered me that the first one is correct, the second is incorrect, and the last seems okay but pretentious.

It's not that "which" is categorically wrong. It does make sense based on this definition of the word:

(used relatively in restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses to represent a specified antecedent): "The book, which I read last night, was exciting."

Rather, it's a question of standard usage. The word "where" refers to location, and because a city is a location, "where" fits the situation better.

Let's review the quotes.

"After living in San Francisco for a short while, he moved to Seattle, in which he went to Edison Technical School."

from https://howdidtheydie.org/how-did-bruce-lee-die/

That article has various mistakes, and wasn't written by someone who is 100% fluent in English. Therefore, it's not a good example.

"London, in which he lived long in Fountain Court, remained his headquarters till he settled."

A link is available at https://archive.org/stream/arthursymons029979mbp/arthursymons029979mbp_djvu.txt

Note the previous sentence:

Paris, Rome, Venice, Seville, and other cities drew him.

In this context, it calls to mind the question "which city did he live in?" The word "which" is used to pick between various choices. "Which sandwich would you like?"

When talking about a list of five cities, then "which" is ok.

England super star David Beckham moved to LA, in which a number of top players play, including the United States international Landon Donovan.

from http://www.fcseoul.com/en/news/news_view.jsp?seq=236&tcd=newsEng&pg=6

This is from a Korean website, and not written by a native speaker, so it's not good example.

In summary: Typically you should prefer to use "where" when referring to cities, however there can be exceptions.

  • Is it a correct sentence?: "England's superstar David Beckham moved to Los Angeles, where is played by many top players, including the US international player Landon Donovan." – Boyep Jan 1 at 11:59
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    @Boyep , "is played" isn't correct. The sentence could be "England super star David Beckham moved to LA, where a number of top players play, including the United States international player Landon Donovan." Because of the repetition of "players" and "play", it might be good to choose different words. – Sam Jan 1 at 14:12

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