Relative Pronouns and Adverbs: 3 Important Facts


A pronoun and adverb function on different spectrums of English Grammar. So, one must be wondering how they can go hand in hand. In this article we’ll take a deeper look into some of  the differences and similarities  between a certain sub-type of relative pronouns and adverbs.

Can relative pronouns be adverbs?

No, relative pronouns and adverbs are different from each other and serve different purposes.

The differences between the two are explained in a question below.

Example 1- She is the person who helped me with my last-minute project.  

  • In the above written sentence, the word “who” is being used as a reference to the noun “she”.
  • Over here, the noun “she” is used in reference to a person.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “who” a relative pronoun.

Example 2- This is the bench where I had kept my watch before I lost it.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “where” is being used as a reference to the noun “bench”.
  • Over here, the noun “bench” as a reference to a location.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “where” a relative adverb.

Why relative pronouns and adverbs are different?

A relative pronoun is usually used in reference to a person or object.

A relative pronoun is usually used in reference to a time or location of a noun.

Sometimes, relative adverbs can serve as relative pronouns as well, depending on the sentence and in what reference it being used.

Example 1- This is the ball that hit me in the face.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “that” is being used as a reference to the noun “ball”.
  • Over here, the noun “ball” is used in reference to an object.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “that” a relative pronoun.

Example 2- It feels like just yesterday when my niece took her first steps.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “when” is being used as a reference to the noun “yesterday”.
  • Over here, the noun “yesterday” as a reference to a certain time.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “when” a relative adverb.

Similarities of relative pronouns and adverbs

The similarity between relative pronouns and adverbs is that they’re both used to refer to some form of a noun.

As mentioned before, those nouns could be a person, object, abstract concept, time or even location.

Example 1- That’s the family whose house was broken into yesterday night.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “whose” is being used as a reference to the noun “family”.
  • Over here, the noun “family” is used in reference to a group of people.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “whose” a relative pronoun.

Example 2- This extreme heat is the why I am getting so many pimples.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “why” is being used as a reference to the noun “heat”.
  • Over here, the noun “heat” has a bit of an ambiguous connotation.
  • The term “heat” is an abstract concept.
  • However, in this case it is being used as the current state of the environment.
  • Therefore, here, “heat” serves as a function of time as well as location.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “why” a relative adverb.

Is whom a relative pronoun or a relative adverb

The word “whom” is a relative pronoun.

  • “Whom” is a relative pronoun since it will always be used in reference to a person.
  • “Whom” cannot be used in reference to time, location, abstract concepts and not even objects.
  • Hence, making it a relative pronoun in its purest form.

Example- The second-best student is whom the teacher appointed as class monitor.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “whom” is being used as a reference to the noun “she”.
  • Over here, the noun “she” is used in reference to a person.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “who” a relative pronoun.
Relative Pronouns and Adverbs
Relative Pronouns and Adverbs

Examples of relative pronouns and adverbs

Note- In the following examples, the written abbreviations mean:-

  • pn- Pronoun
  • av- Adverb
  1. Who (pn)- My uncle was the only person who helped me move the boxes.
  2. Where (av)- This desk is where I usually keep my lunchbox.
  3. Whom (pn)- She is the person whom I asked for help with my school homework.
  4. When (av)- Monday is when the event is supposed to be held.
  5. Whose (pn)- He might be the only person whose all wishes have come true till today.
  6. Why (av)- Yesterday’s late-night party is why I woke up so late today.
  7. Which (pn)- This is a tunnel which also leads to an underground pool.
  8. That (pn)- These are the lucky pens that I needed to write my exam to get good grades.

Explanations of relative pronouns and adverbs

1.     Who (pn)- My uncle was the only person who helped me move the boxes.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “who” is being used as a reference to the noun “uncle”.
  • Over here, the noun “uncle” is used in reference to a person.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “who” a relative pronoun.

2.     Where (av)- This desk is where I usually keep my lunchbox.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “where” is being used as a reference to the noun “desk”.
  • Over here, the noun “desk” as a reference to a location.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “where” a relative adverb.

3.     Whom (pn)- She is the person whom I asked for help with my school homework.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “whom” is being used as a reference to the noun “she”.
  • Over here, the noun “she” is used in reference to a person.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “whom” a relative pronoun.

4.     When (av)- Monday is when the event is supposed to be held.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “when” is being used as a reference to the noun “Monday”.
  • Over here, the noun “Monday” as a reference to a location.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “when” a relative adverb.

5.     Whose (pn)- He might be the only person whose all wishes have come true till today.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “whose” is being used as a reference to the noun “he”.
  • Over here, the noun “he” is used in reference to a person.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “whose” a relative pronoun.

6.     Why (av)- Yesterday’s late-night party is why I woke up so late today.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “why” is being used as a reference to the noun “party”.
  • Over here, the noun “party” as a reference to a location.
  • The determiner “yesterday’s” used to describe the time of the party is also a contributing factor in establishing the state of the said party and its consequences.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “why” a relative adverb.

7.     Which (pn)- This is a tunnel which also leads to an underground pool.

  • In the above written sentence, the word “which” is being used as a reference to the noun “tunnel”.
  • Over here, the noun “tunnel” is used in reference to a person.
  • Therefore, this makes the word “which” a relative pronoun.

8.     That (pn)- These are the lucky pens that I needed to write my exam to get good grades.

Conclusion

Hence, these are the differences and similarities between relative pronouns and adverbs, their functionalities and how their uses are distinguished based on the type of noun they’re referring to.

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