I copied the sentence below from somewhere, I am not sure it is a sentence or part of a paragraph. (I added "Therefore" myself)

..... Therefore, where we need to work on sound-spelling relationships, we have to make sure second language learners have an accurate perception of the sounds.

The usage of "where" in this sentence was new to me, however I think I understand it! it is something like "As" or "While" or maybe the similar usage in this sentence ?

Where others have been satisfied, Dowson had higher ambitions!

How do you explain this usage?

  • possible duplicate of Using "where" in this sentence Jul 9, 2015 at 19:42
  • This question seems like it is easier to answer than the possible duplicate question.
    – Jasper
    Jul 9, 2015 at 19:48
  • 1
    How is this different to your earlier question? In this case, where doesn't mean while or as - it simply means in the specified cases (as opposed to other cases, which are "elsewhere", not under consideration). Since there's no reason to add the extra word therefore (which doesn't affect the thing you're asking about) you shouldn't do so - it just adds irrelevant complexity. Jul 9, 2015 at 19:48
  • @FumbleFingers sorry I can't see a relation with that question! Here, "where" is at the beginning of the sentence and doesn't look like a relative clause!
    – Ahmad
    Jul 9, 2015 at 19:50
  • 1
    I think it is a "relative clause"! Including therefore simply complicates the example, but it's essentially We have to do [blah blah] where [blah blah], with the "default" clause sequence adjusted. Jul 9, 2015 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


Simplifying the sentence so we can concentrate on what really matters here...

1: While we need to [do one thing], we have to [do some other thing].
2: Where we need to [do one thing], we have to [do some other thing].

In a very contrived context1 they could mean the same, but it's so unlikely you can probably ignore that possibility. Note that while has these two relatively distinct usages...

3: While breastfeeding, you should eat two to three servings of protein each day.
4: While I agree Greece has borrowed unwisely, I think bankers are the real villains here.

In principle you could replace while in both cases with the "literal" meaning at the same time as. But by "figurative, idiomatic" extension, in #3 it actually means when [but not necessarily at other times] and in #4 it means although [the first thing is true, at the same time, so is the second].

Applying that distinction to OP's example (still slightly simplified), we see that...

5: While we need to work on X, we have to make sure Y [happens].
6: Where we need to work on X, we have to make sure Y [happens].

The default interpretation for #5 is Although we must work on X, we must also ensure Y. The only interpretation of #6 is In those situations where we need to work on X, we must also ensure Y.

1 (If you've understood the above text this is probably redundant.) Note that "needing to work on X" isn't normally a situation you might be in periodically (usually you either need to work on it or you don't - the requirement doesn't keep changing). Using while X to mean when X, at the same time as X always implies that there are other times when X doesn't apply. In OP's context, it's unlikely the writer is drawing a contrast with other times when we don't need to work on sound-spelling relationships.

  • Thank you, in summary, I think I should interpret "where" as "In situations where" in such cases. However, based on your final comment in the answer, I think its meaning is close to "Whenever".
    – Ahmad
    Jul 10, 2015 at 5:37
  • @Ahmad: Since all these words (while, where, when, whenever, although, etc.) can have different non-overlapping meanings and usages in different contexts, I'm not sure it's necessarily helpful to identify any given pair as "synonymous". It's just that in certain contexts some can be replaced by others with no significant change in meaning. In many contexts of the general form #1, #3, #5 above, the meaning of while can be adequately conveyed by just if. Jul 10, 2015 at 12:07

Your "Therefore" is probably unnecessary. "Therefore" means "given these facts", which is similar to "in this situation". As I explain below, this is redundant with "where" in this context.

"Where" in this context is short for "In situations where".

This usage makes me think of geographical and historical analogies. For example, imagine a country with mountains in the west, and a seacoast in the east. I could say, "Where the ground slopes from west to east, the rivers tend to run from west to east."

  • 2
    We have absolutely no idea whether therefore is "necessary" (or even meaningful), since it depends entirely on unstated preceding context. Which would have to at least justify the cited statement in order to make sense, but that wouldn't force the word to be included. Jul 9, 2015 at 19:56
  • @FumbleFingers I brought the context in my update of the question
    – Ahmad
    Jul 9, 2015 at 20:04
  • Thank you, is it true about my second example in the revised question too?
    – Ahmad
    Jul 9, 2015 at 20:25
  • The "Dowson" sentence is not a very helpful example. The "Dowson" sentence has not-quite parallel verb tenses in the two clauses. This makes it harder to explain what the word "Where" means in the example.
    – Jasper
    Jul 9, 2015 at 20:30
  • Oh! Actually I borrowed it from Longman dictionary, I was suspected that my sentence is similar to this usage. Longman says: "It is used to say that one person, thing, opinion etc. is different from another"
    – Ahmad
    Jul 9, 2015 at 20:43

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