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I would like to know whether one can use a relative pronoun inside of another one. For instance,

I should finish my homework before 5 pm when I would like to watch a movie, which is a Nolan's movie.

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  • What do you mean by a relative pronoun inside of another one? As far as I can see, there's only one relative pronoun in your sentence: which, which starts the relative clause which is a Nolan's movie. And why don't you opt instead for the neater and tighter version of this sentence: I should finish my homework before 5 pm, when I would like to watch a Nolan movie?
    – user126190
    Jun 8, 2021 at 12:46
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    @user405662 I'd classify "when" is a preposition, in accordance with modern grammar. The meaning can be glossed as "at which time"
    – BillJ
    Jun 8, 2021 at 13:15
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    @BillJ: So the grammar of a sentence changes completely when you change the wording from "the day when I discovered the secret cupboard in my house" to "the day that I discovered the secret cupboard in my house"? I don't understand "modern grammar". Jun 8, 2021 at 13:22
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    @User40475 I would consider when as a conjunction if it specifies the time at which something happens: "We will go home when you have finished". In this sentence, the time at which something happens is specified by the prepositional phrase "before 5pm": when is a relative pronoun that introduces a non-defining relative clause "when I would like to watch a movie": it simply provides additional information, and does not specify the time..
    – JavaLatte
    Jun 8, 2021 at 13:46
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    @User40475: yes, traditional grammar also deals with these differently, which might be a good reason for replacing it by "modern grammar" if you could just figure out the correct "modern grammar". To me, the words "that" and "when" seem like they're playing exactly the same role in those sentences. Jun 8, 2021 at 13:54

2 Answers 2

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In the comments and the answers, people are getting hung up on whether when is a conjunction or a relative pronoun or a preposition. For the answer to this question, it doesn't matter. Grammatically, you can nest these phrases as much as you want. Consider the nursery rhyme The House that Jack Built, whose sixth verse is:

This is the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

which has six relative clauses, each inside the previous one. It's grammatical.

And consider this question in elu.stackexchange, that asks "Is it ok to have a relative clause inside another relative clause?" The answer says "yes".

If you stack more than three or so relative clauses inside each other, it might be confusing, and some people will consider it bad style, but it's still grammatical.

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A relative pronoun is a word that introduces a dependent (or relative) clause and connects it to an independent clause. Therefore I think you are a little confused between pronouns and clauses. Please use the link below.

Ref Grammarly

I should finish my homework before 5 pm when I would like to watch a movie, which is a Nolan's movie.

Why would you want to write something in this way? Try this;

I should finish my homework before 5 pm because I would like to watch a Nolan's movie.


Please note we are using a conjunction not a relative pronoun. A conjunction is a word which is used to link thoughts and ideas within a sentence. Ref What is a Conjunction?

because; conjunction; for the reason that: Ref C.E.D.

In fact because is a subordinating conjunction it can be used to join dependent and independent clauses. This type of conjunction can be used as a way of showing case and effect relationships between two clauses or a contrast, as well as various other relationships which might occur.

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