Grammar class: Confusion about when to use “where” vs “which”

Shanghai

Shanghai

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

A tutor recently told me about her student who was confused by “where” and “which.”  She was wondering how I would approach this student’s question.   He had two sentences:

Shanghai is a city which has a population of eight million people.
Shanghai is a city where eight million people live.

I have found that the most common mistake that ESL students make with “where” is when they are missing a subject:

                                                            V
Incorrect: This is a place where buy good fish.

                                                       S     V
Correct: This is a place where we buy good fish.
I tell the students that we need to have a subject and verb after the word “where.”  That usually is all I need to say.

At the same time, the word “which” can be the subject of the dependent clause.

If necessary, to clarify further, I’ll break the sentences into two sentences and then show how they are combined into one:

Shangahi is a city.  It has a population of eight million people.
Shanghai is a city which has a population of eight million people.

Shangahi is a city.  Eight million people live there.
Shanghai is a city where eight million people live.

As a follow up, I have students complete this attached exercise.

which-where-exercise-pdf

David Kehe

2 thoughts on “Grammar class: Confusion about when to use “where” vs “which”

  1. Burt

    This worked great with my students. Working with dependent clauses is a challenge for my students. Do you have any suggestions for working with subordinators?

    Like

    Reply

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