For example: I hope there is at least 1 person who when (s/he) sees the quality of final outcome, s/he will be delighted...

is this possible and if not what could be the appropriate structure that allows such use of "who when" together?

thank you

  • 2
    CowperKettle is right; it's OK, but you need a comma to make the two phrases clearer. Think of it this way: "one person who will be delighted" is one phrase, and "when s/he sees the quality" is a separate phrase that explains something about the first one. – stangdon Jul 8 '16 at 11:53

I guess it might be possible this way:

I hope there is at least one person who, when she sees the quality of the final outcome, will be delighted.

I doubt that you can use "who when" in this sentence without a comma.

When you set off a clause or a phrase by two commas like this, it's called "parenthesis". You can also use round brackets or dashes.

I hope there is at least one person who - when she sees the quality of the final outcome - will be delighted.


O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.


Does it absolutely positively have to be "who when"? I mean, to my ears it doesn't really sound good. What about this:

I hope there is at least one person who will be delighted when she sees the quality of the final outcome.

  • 1
    It's a perfectly correct and normal if slightly high-flown phrasing. There are many examples, such as "They had made several treaties of friendship with the Indians, who, when well supplied with arms, ammunition, clothes, and other necessaries... or "More numerous are those who, when they pass away as human beings..." or "How about those who, when asked for the Scriptures, had handed over heretical writings..." – stangdon Jul 8 '16 at 14:58
  • 1
    But I guess Someasw meant exactly that the sentence does not "sound good" due to its "high-flown" nature, even though it is grammatical. Indeed, his version is more typical for 99% of situations. – CowperKettle Jul 8 '16 at 16:07

In general, there are no restrictions whatever on which word might happen to follow which other word in a sentence.*

This is because English grammar doesn't work on strings of words - it words on (nested) structures. There is no structure that I can think of which will generate the sequence "who when"; but there are many ways of creating a sentence where "who" in one constituent happens to be followed by "when" in another (admittedly, usually with a comma in between). So your example sentence is perfectly fine (though clearer with a comma). I has no structure allowing "who when" together: it has a structure where the subject of a sentence (which happens to be realised as "who") is followed by an adverbial clause (which happens to be introduced by "when").

*Even obvious restrictions like 'a' followed by a vowel-initial word are not inevitable. Consider "This presents us with a - I might almost say the - big question", where 'a' is followed by 'I'.

  • Or, even more likely, "a universal problem". – Hellion Jul 8 '16 at 20:14
  • No, no, no, no, no, @Hellion.. "a universal problem" is NOT 'a' followed by a vowel. A vowel (for the purposes of a/an) is a kind of sound, not a kind of letter, and "universal" does not start with that kind of sound. – Colin Fine Jul 9 '16 at 22:32
  • most learners (and indeed many native speakers) have not been taught the distinction; a "vowel" is one of [a e i o u[ to them. :-) Normally I would refer to a "vowel-sound-initial" word. – Hellion Jul 10 '16 at 15:25
  • Which is why I made the point. 'A' vs 'an' is sometimes mis-characterised as a rule of spelling. It is not. It is a rule of the natural phenomenon known as English, not of the technology known as writing. – Colin Fine Jul 10 '16 at 20:17

Double quotes seem to make it okay as well. Consider:

...what could be the appropriate structure that allows such use of "who when" together?

that seems valid! :)

Comma usage opens many additional possibilities as well:

The detective wanted to know who, when, where and why.

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