Consider the following sentences:

  1. This is the house that Jack built.
  2. This is the place where he was assaulted.

In the above sentences, why is "that" in 1 a relative pronoun and "where" in 2 a relative adverb. Aren't they essentially doing the same thing, i.e., referring to the antecedents "house" and "place", respectively.

1 Answer 1


[1] This is the house [that Jack built].

[2] This is the place [where he was assaulted].

The relativised elements refer to house/place, but they have different functions in the relative clause .

In [1] the relative clause simply identifies the house as being the one that Jack built. The relativised element is functioning as object of "built", cf. "This is house x; Jack built x".

In [2] the relative clause identifies the place as being the one where he was assaulted. By contrast, the relativised element here is functioning as an adjunct of place, cf. "This is place x; he was assaulted in/at x".

  • Why is the relativised element in 2 an adjunct, though? By definition, an adjunct can be removed without altering the meaning of the remaining sentence. But he was assaulted doesn't convey the entire information sans adjunct, right? @Mr.BillJ
    – user126190
    Apr 6, 2021 at 16:25
  • @User40475 Consider this example, “The plane leaves [at 14.45]”. Here, the bracketed bit will typically be a vital part of the information being conveyed, but it is an adjunct (as opposed to a complement). Now consider “He was assaulted [in some place]”. Here, "He was assaulted" is the main proposition, and although “in some place” may be important information, it is an optional element and thus an adjunct.
    – BillJ
    Apr 7, 2021 at 6:04

You must log in to answer this question.