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The sentence:

We can understand that YouTube has become a channel that / where people visit almost every day.

Can I use "that" instead of "where" here? Why can or can't I? Could you explain that to me?

  • You can use "that," which is a pronoun that introduces the relative clause. You use "where" only to say where something is or where you go. You don't say "where people visit" because where is not a pronoun. – Jan Feb 25 at 17:48
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Both "where" or "that" could be used there, but they have different meanings:

"that" introduces a relative clause that tells you some additional information about the preceding subject/object.

"where" introduces a relative clause that tells you something about the location where something is or happens. (The location can be a physical location, or a metaphorical/conceptual place or context (like a web site, for example))

Therefore,

YouTube has become a channel that people visit almost every day.

This says that people visit YouTube almost every day.

YouTube has become a channel where people visit almost every day.

This says that YouTube is a place, and in that place, people visit (each other) every day.

Note that even many native English speakers get this distinction wrong, however, and people will often use "where" when they mean "that", or vice-versa.

I hope this helps..

(Edit: A bit more context based on additional questions from the comments:)

One thing to note about "that" and its meaning (and when you can use it) is that the use of this word to connect two phrases ("A that B") implies that you can rearrange the phrases so that A is the direct object of B and it will still make sense:

"a channel that people visit" --> "people visit a channel"

If A is actually the subject of B, that's when you should use "which" instead of "that" (but actually, most people don't pay a lot of attention to this distinction anymore, so they often use "that" in that case too, even though it's technically not grammatically correct):

"a channel which (that) is visited by people" --> "a channel is visited by people"

However, if A is not the direct object or subject of B (for example, it's normally joined by another preposition like "in"), then you can't use "that", because if you rearrange things it doesn't actually work:

"a room that we can spend the night" --> "we can spend the night a room" (wrong)

Here, since we spend the night in a room, we would need to use "in which" instead:

"a room in which we can spend the night" --> "we can spend the night in a room" (better!)

The grammatical requirement for "where" is much looser, however. "A where B" does not imply that A serves any specific grammar role within B, it just says that the location associated with A and the location associated with B are the same (or related).

"a channel where people visit" --> "people visit" in the same place as "a channel"
"a room where we can spend the night" --> "we can spend the night" in the same place as "a room"

But this is also why replacing "that" with "where" (or vice-versa) usually changes the meaning, because for most verbs, the direct object ("that") isn't the same thing as the place where it occurs ("where"). (there are a few verbs that do take a location as their direct object, and in those cases you can often interchange them, but only for those verbs)

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  • Thanks for the previous answer.but I'm still question this point.Is it impossible that where is from with which in this sentence,which turns this sentence into "YouTube has become a channel with which people visit almost every day".I use with because I think it is from visit with,which functions as phrasal verb,found in OALD.What's your opinion about my thought? – A.P Feb 26 at 9:16
  • There are a few issues there. First, the phrasal verb "visit with" is generally only used with other people, not inanimate things like YouTube. Second, "phrasal verb" means that you can't rearrange the words and have it keep the same meaning, so "with which people visit" is not the same verb as "visit with" (it would have to be "which people visit with", since "visit with" is one unit). That "with which" in your sentence would generally be interpreted as a connecting preposition meaning "using", so it actually says that people use YouTube as a tool in order to visit (presumably each other). – Foogod Feb 26 at 15:02
  • thanks for that explaination but I question this point as well.I found the information related to this topic in this website, englishgrammar.org/that-instead-of-when-and-where/.l question what it say here. Note that that is not possible in this case after other words. For example, we can’t say: We need a room that we can spend the night. (Only where is possible in this case.) I want to know why because it doesn't give any explaination here.Could you clarify that to me,please? – A.P Feb 27 at 1:08
  • I've added a bit more to the end of my answer above to try to address some of this. Basically, "A that B" implies A is the direct object of B, but in that case, "spend" already has a direct object ("the night"), so it can't take "a room" as its direct object (and that wouldn't make sense anyway), so that's why you can't use "that" in that case. – Foogod Feb 27 at 16:19

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