5 Difference Between Where and Which in Relative Clauses

Nov 20, 2023
Difference Between Where and Which in Relative ClausesDifference Between Where and Which in Relative Clauses

Where and Which in Relative Clauses: Where always indicates the location in relative clauses; which could represent either person or thing. Where and Which are two relative adjectival adverbs used within relative clauses; you can use either of them when creating a relative clause. Their primary difference lies in what type of information each of them adds to a sentence.

What Is the Definition of Relative Clauses?

Relative Clauses
Relative Clauses

Subordinate clauses provide information about a noun in a sentence. They consist of adjectives introduced with relative pronouns such as “who”, “whom”, “whose”, which” or that”, or a related adverb. Relative clauses provide more details about a noun that they modify by providing additional descriptive or identifying details to the main clause. They clarify or provide details that allow listeners or readers to fully comprehend a sentence.

Non-restrictive clauses also referred to as nondefining or nonessential clauses, provide information that is neither essential nor restrictive in nature. Restrictive clauses serve to identify or define nouns they modify without being separated by commas whereas nonrestrictive clauses that provide more detail are separated with commas for clarity.


I purchased a book yesterday, which is sitting on my desk. In this sentence, the relative clause “that I purchased yesterday” indicates which book is under discussion.

No-restrictive relative clause. “My sister is a doctor and lives in New York.” The noun being described here does not need to be defined or limited, only more information provided about its identity provided through “who’s a doctor”.

Relative clauses are integral parts of sentence structure, helping create complex sentences with many details and providing speakers and writers of all types with more information about objects, concepts, or subjects in order to enhance clarity and depth in their communications.

Importance of relative clauses in sentence structure

Relative clauses play a critical role when writing sentences.

Here is their significance and use as sentence-building tools:

  • Relative clauses play an essential role in sentence construction for several reasons.
  • Relative clauses provide additional details that clarify or expand upon nouns, making sentences more specific and accurate.
  • “The doctor who lives next door” The relative clause “who lives next door” adds extra information about who or what the noun “woman” refers to, providing further clarification as to whom this refers.
  • Relative clauses offer us an effective way of avoiding repetition by providing information about a word without repeating it multiple times within a sentence, keeping its flow and eliminating repetition altogether.
  • “I recently purchased a vehicle with leather seats.” To provide more details without repeating “car,” use the relative clause, “that have leather seats”.
  • Relative clauses can help create complex sentences by adding subordinate clauses that improve their structure, creating nuanced and intricate expressions of ideas.
  • The movie was directed by an esteemed filmmaker and received critical acclaim. The relative clause, “which was directed by a renowned director”, adds extra layers to this sentence as it provides more information on its subject noun – “movie”.
  • Relative clauses can be used to identify or describe nouns. By doing so, they add clarity and depth to the nouns they modify.
  • “The dog that I adopted from an animal shelter is friendly.” In this sentence, “that I adopted from” serves to clarify which particular dog is being discussed.
  • Relative clauses provide details about specific objects or entities to help differentiate between them, helping distinguish one noun from another noun.
  • “The home where I grew up has now become a Museum.” Here, the relative clause “where I grew up” serves to distinguish this particular house from others in its vicinity.

Relative clauses are vital components of sentence structure. They serve several functions, including providing additional details, reducing repetition and complexity, altering nouns to differentiate entities, and clarifying the overall meaning of sentences. Relative clauses contribute significantly towards crafting clear and precise messages.

Table Difference:

Aspect Where Which
Function Indicates a location or place Indicates a choice or selection
Type of information Specifies the place or location associated with the main clause Provides additional details about a specific item or option
Question answered “In/at which place?” “Which one?”
Examples  I visited the city where I was born.  She picked the dress which she saw in the magazine.
Sentence structure A relative clause modifies a noun of place A relative clause modifies a noun of choice

Overview of Where and Which

Where and Which are two relative pronouns used in various contexts and serve different functions when used within relative clauses.

Here is an introduction to their usage:


  • Definition: This relative pronoun introduces clauses that specify an identifiable place or location.
  • Use: Spatially referential information can provide more detail on any noun or phrase related to a place.
  • Example: I visited my birth city as part of my itinerary. Including “where I was born” provides additional context about where to visit.


  • Definition: When used to introduce a relative clause, “Which” signifies an option or choice between multiple alternatives.
  • Usage: for extra context on an object or phrase chosen or selected from.
  • Example: She selected a dress she saw in a magazine as the one that best met her taste. Adding “which was seen in the magazine” provides additional context on why this particular piece of clothing is chosen.

Usage of Where in Relative Clauses

In relative clauses, “where” serves to define a place or location associated with its noun being modified. It adds more details about that noun by specifying its associated place or location within its main clause.

There are two methods of using “where” within relative clauses:

(1) direct use

(2) indirect use

Provide details about a particular location:

Example: “I traveled back to my birth city.”

“Where I Was Born” provides specific details regarding a certain city or location. This sentence shows that the speaker has visited their birthplace and provides proof that this city/location exists.

Referring to an area generally:

Example: “He went to a cafe that was quiet enough so he could concentrate on his work without interruptions.

This sentence includes a relative clause that describes where he could work in a quiet cafe. This adds additional information about its location to the main clause.

Wherein both cases “where” introduces the relative clause by linking it with its noun modifier and providing location or place-specific details, this statement clarifies context and enhances comprehension of a sentence.

Usage of Which in Relative Clauses

Within relative clauses, “which” can provide further details about nouns or noun phrases; this is especially applicable when selecting or choosing.

There are two ways in which “which” can be utilized:

Identification of an option or selection:

  1. She chose the dress from a magazine.
  2. This relative clause gives information about the dress she chose after viewing it in a magazine, clarifying it was purchased through it.

Providing additional information about the noun:

Example: He adopted an abandoned dog.

The relative clause “that was abandoned by its previous owner” gives additional information about the dog that he adopted; specifically that its prior owner abandoned it for adoption by him.

“Which” acts to link and introduce a relative clause with a noun or phrase it modifies, providing details or characteristics about them as well as being used to define and explain them within a sentence.

Comparison between Where and Which in Relative Clauses

In relative clauses, “where” and ‘which” each have distinct roles and provide specific information.

Here is a comparison between their use in relative clauses:


  1. “Where” refers to an exact physical location that provides information about an event or action taking place at that location.
  2. “Which” refers to an option or choice. It provides additional details about an item or choice.

Type of Information:

The “where” clause details the location or place associated with the main clause. It answers the question “In/at What Place Is this Happening?

“Which?” This link provides information about an item or option and addresses your “Which one?” query.



  1. A relative clause provides information about which city or region the speaker visited.
  2. He found a quiet cafe where he could focus on his work uninterrupted. This refers to where or in what capacity he could work.


  1. She selected one she saw in the magazine; thus the relative clause specifies this choice of clothing for herself.
  2. He adopted an abandoned dog from its former owner. The relative clause provides details about the dog that was adopted.


“Where” and “which” are two relative clauses used to indicate location or selection. While “where” represents physical space and “which” refers to tangible items; understanding their use will allow you to convey your intended meaning when using relative clauses.

Practice Exercises

Here are a few activities designed to strengthen the use of “where” or “which” when referring to relative clauses.

Fill in the gaps of each sentence using “where” or “which”.

Our picnic spot was absolutely lovely.

She made sure she purchased a vehicle with high fuel efficiency.

He finally secured employment in his city of choice.

Near the beach, you will discover a restaurant known for its seafood specialties.

My experience borrowing the book “_______” from the public library was very enjoyable.


Understanding the distinctions between “where”, “which” and “which” is essential to effective communication. Where refers to a place or location and provides additional details regarding nouns or phrases associated with this location; while “which” indicates options or choices that provide further details.

Avoid repetition, construct complex sentences correctly, modify nouns appropriately, and differentiate between entities by understanding where or which relative clauses. Exercise will help you gain a better grasp and apply these concepts both written and spoken English.

Employing “where” and “which” as subtleties within relative clauses will enable you to communicate more clearly and precisely while expanding your language abilities. Keep practicing these relative pronouns effectively to improve your linguistic proficiency.