Relative pronoun : who, whom, whose, which, that

Relative adverb : when, where, why

Is "how" neither a relative pronoun nor an relative adverb? Then, which category does 'how' belong to?

  • I don't believe I've ever seen "how" used in a relative clause. I don't quite know how that would work (sorry for the pun!). I don't see any antecedent to which "how" could possibly refer, so it can't be a relative pronoun. I would say that it doesn't have a (relative) category, but I'm sure others are more qualified to answer that.
    – Kman3
    May 7, 2020 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


"How" is a flat adverb (an adverb that has no -ly ending), and "how" is also an interrogative adverb (an adverb that is used to ask a direct question or an indirect question).{How are you doing?} Interrogative adverbs can also "modify some word or phrase in the sentence" in which they appear and "they often present a question about manner" {How did the accident happen?} (Garner, 2016, p.131). Additionally, "How" is a conjunctive adverb (an adverb that is used to connect a dependent clause to an independent clause), and conjunctive adverbs can introduce noun clauses {I don't understand how you arrived at that conclusion.} (Garner, 2016, p.133). Garner indicates 'how' is a conjunctive adverb that can introduce noun clauses; he does not give an example of 'how' connecting a dependent clause to an independent clause.

"How" is not a relative adverb because relative adverbs join "a dependent (subordinate) clause to an independent (main) clause while modifying the clause of which it is a part," and relative adverbs, as you know, introduce adjectival clauses and they introduce relative clauses. (Garner, 2016, p.132, italics mine). "How" does not introduce adjectival clauses or relative clauses. Adjectival clauses are introduced by a relative pronoun and relative clauses are also introduced by a relative pronoun. See this link for examples of relative adverbs (with examples of relative adverbs used in sentences).

"How" is also not a relative pronoun. "The most common relative pronouns are who, whom, whose, which, and that. Sometimes when and where can be used as relative pronouns as well" (Relative Pronoun, n.d.).

In summary:

  1. 'How' is a flat adverb
  2. 'How' is also an interrogative adverb and
  3. 'How' is a conjunctive adverb
  4. 'How' is not a relative pronoun and
  5. 'How' is not a relative adverb

I hope this information was helpful.

  • I'm wondering how to parse a paraphrase of your example: “How you arrived at that conclusion is beyond me.” What is the subject of this sentence: “how”? Then the subordinate “you arrived at that conclusion“ can stand alone, but the main clause can't: *“How is beyond me.” It's not conjunctive, b/c “is beyond me“ isn't a clause, and not relative. It's more plausible to treat the whole subtree “how you arrived at that conclusion” as the subject here. If it requests a clarification, it may be “I arrived at it /by assuming…”, or even syntactically correct nonsense “…/quickly.” Syntax is damn hard… Jan 7 at 14:20

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