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Adjective Clauses That Describe Places

Adjective Clauses That Describe Places
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Imagine you are watching a movie in English. Perhaps it is a musical, such as Mary Poppins Returns.

Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where the lost things go

In today’s Everyday Grammar, we will explore some of the words we just heard. In particular, we will explore adjective clauses that describe places.

But first, let’s begin with some definitions.

What are adjective clauses?

Adjective clauses, also called relative clauses, are groups of words that modify or give further information about nouns.

These clauses have a subject and a predicate. Consider this example:

This is the city where I was born.

In the example, I is the subject of the clause. Was born is the predicate. Where is a relative adverb.

Together, the words where I was born make an adjective clause that modifies or describes the noun city.

Our example sentence is one in which an adjective clause describes a place.

Language experts Susan Conrad and Douglas Biber note* that English speakers often use adjective clauses in regular, repeated ways. When describing places, Conrad and Biber note, English speakers often use the words where or that to begin an adjective clause. But sometimes they do not use any word at all, as we will see.

Adjective clauses that describe places

The first way English speakers describe a place is with the structure -

Noun of place + where.

Think back to our first example:

This is the city where I was born.

The noun of place is the word city.

But in everyday speech and in writing, one of the most commonly used nouns of place is the word place.

Consider the song There’s a Place, by the Beatles.

There is a place
Where I can go

In the song, the noun of place is place and the adjective clause is the words where I can go.

Noun of place + that OR noun of place only

But where is not the only word that English speakers use to begin adjective clauses that describe places. In everyday speech, Americans also often use the word that.

Consider this example. Imagine two friends are walking down the street. One might say to the other,

Is this the restaurant that you were talking about?

In the example, the noun of place is restaurant. The word that begins the adjective clause.

But in some cases, Americans leave out the word that. So, you might hear an American ask their friend the following question:

Is this the restaurant you were talking about?

For more information about why the word that disappears, please visit the earlier Everyday Grammar program, The Mystery of the Disappearing "That.”

There are other ways that English speakers use adjective clauses to describe places. They might use the words in which or to which, for example. Such structures are mostly used in academic writing. They are much less common in everyday speech.

Closing thoughts

Let’s end this report with a quiz. At the beginning of this report, you heard the following words:

Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where the lost things go

Can you tell where the adjective clauses are? Do the adjective clauses modify a noun of place, or do they modify a different kind of noun? Write us your answer in the comments section of our website,

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

*Conrad, Susan and Biber, Douglas. Real Grammar: A Corpus-Based Approach to English. Pearson Education Inc. 2009


Words in This Story

clause – n. grammar : a part of a sentence that has its own subject and verb

adverb – n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used to show time, manner, place, or degree

regular adj. happening over and over again at the same time or in the same way

academic – adj. of or relating to schools and education

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