Using Relative & Interrogative Adverbs Effectively: Tips and Tricks

Ever been stuck on how to make your writing clearer and more engaging? Knowing adverbs, especially the ones that ask questions or compare things, can really change things up.

In this post, we’ll dive into what relative and interrogative adverbs are, how to use them, and some practical tips to help you become a pro at using them.

First, let’s talk about adverbs. Adverbs are words that describe or give more information about verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They often tell us how, when, where, or why something happens.

♦ She sings beautifully.
♦ He arrived early.

What are Relative Adverbs?

Relative adverbs introduce subordinate clauses and work similarly to relative pronouns, in that they give more information about a noun. The main relative adverbs are:

where: refers to a place.
This is the house where I grew up.
when: refers to a time.
Summer is the season when we go to the beach
why: refers to a reason.
The reason why she left is still a mystery.

♦ I know a farmhouse [in which | where] we can spend the night.

Where’ is an adverb of place, modifying ‘can spend.’ But it also introduces the subordinate clause, just like the relative pronoun ‘which’ does. That’s why ‘where’ is called a relative adverb.

Conjunctive Adverbs

The main relative adverbs are: where, wherever, when, whenever, while, as, how, why, before, after, till, until, and since. We refer to them as conjunctive adverbs, since they work similar to conjunctions.

♦ He had a fever when he was in Spain.
♦ Work while it is day.
♦ As the ship passed, we observed her crowded deck. [Time]
♦ You started before I was ready.
♦ Wait until the car stops.
Since you came, it has rained constantly.

As‘ and ‘since‘ meaning ‘because,’ and ‘while‘ meaning ‘although,’ are considered conjunctions.

Clauses introduced by relative adverbs can be adjective or adverbial clauses.

A Common Mistake

A common mistake is using a preposition with a relative adverb, like ‘the house where I live in’. Instead, just say, ‘the house where I live.’

What are Interrogative Adverbs?

An interrogative adverb is used to introduce a question. Interrogative adverbs, such as

 ♦ How: asks about the manner or way something is done.
How did you make this cake?
When: asks about time.
When are we leaving?
Where: asks about a place.
Where did you put my book?
Why: asks about a reason.
Why are you wearing that shirt?

A Common Mistake

Sometimes writers get confused between interrogative adverbs and other question words like ‘what‘ or ‘which‘. It’s important to note that interrogative adverbs refer specifically to the questions of how, when, where, and why.

Relative vs. Interrogative Adverbs

Let’s compare relative and interrogative adverbs to make things clearer.

Relative Adverbs give more information about a noun and connect clauses.

♦ The park where we met is beautiful.

Interrogative Adverbs ask questions.

♦ Where is the park?

Special Adverbs

Are there special adverbs? Yes, there are.

Yes and No

Yes‘ and ‘no‘ are special adverbs used to agree or disagree. Initially, they functioned as modifiers and are still classified as adverbs. For example:

♦ Are you hungry? No.

It is possible to form complete sentences using just ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

The original meaning of ‘no’ was ‘never.’ Compare this to how we use ‘never’ as a strong negative today, like:

♦ Will you surrender? Never!

The first affirmative adverb was ‘yea.’ ‘Yes‘ was created by combining ‘yea‘ with ‘so‘ and was used for strong affirmatives (like our ‘just so!’).

Sometimes we use other words or phrases like ‘yes‘ or ‘no,’ such as ‘certainly,’ ‘assuredly,’ ‘by no means,’ and ‘not at all.’ In these cases, the word or phrase clearly modifies the sentence. For example:

♦ Will you help me? Certainly [I will help you].

There

Often, we use ‘there‘ just to start a sentence in inverted order:

There is a hole in my shoe.
There are many strangers in town.
There rose a thick smoke from the volcano.

In these uses, ‘there‘ is sometimes called an expletive (or ‘filler’) because it doesn’t emphasize the place anymore.

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Exercises for Relative & Interrogative Adverbs

Take a moment to identify the relative and interrogative adverbs in the sentences below.

  1. When did you arrive at the party?
  2. This is the park where we first met.
  3. I don’t know why she is upset.
  4. The reason why he left early is still unknown.
  5. Can you tell me how you solved this problem?
  6. Where do you plan to go on vacation?
  7. I remember the day when we graduated.
  8. He asked me why I was late.
  9. This is the place where we usually have lunch.
  10. How did you manage to finish so quickly?
  11. The year when we moved here was 2010.
  12. Why are you looking so sad?
  13. She told me the reason why she decided to quit.
  14. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.
  15. Do you know when the next bus arrives?
  16. The day when we went to the beach was perfect.
  17. Where did you find this book?
  18. Please explain why you didn’t complete your homework.
  19. That’s the restaurant where they serve the best pizza.
  20. When is your birthday?
Click on the + button for the answers
  1. When did you arrive at the party? (Interrogative Adverb)
  2. This is the park where we first met. (Relative Adverb)
  3. I don’t know why she is upset. (Interrogative Adverb)
  4. The reason why he left early is still unknown. (Relative Adverb)
  5. Can you tell me how you solved this problem? (Interrogative Adverb)
  6. Where do you plan to go on vacation? (Interrogative Adverb)
  7. I remember the day when we graduated. (Relative Adverb)
  8. He asked me why I was late. (Interrogative Adverb)
  9. This is the place where we usually have lunch. (Relative Adverb)
  10. How did you manage to finish so quickly? (Interrogative Adverb)
  11. The year when we moved here was 2010. (Relative Adverb)
  12. Why are you looking so sad? (Interrogative Adverb)
  13. She told me the reason why she decided to quit. (Relative Adverb)
  14. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. (Neither – Adverb of Manner)
  15. Do you know when the next bus arrives? (Interrogative Adverb)
  16. The day when we went to the beach was perfect. (Relative Adverb)
  17. Where did you find this book? (Interrogative Adverb)
  18. Please explain why you didn’t complete your homework. (Interrogative Adverb)
  19. That’s the restaurant where they serve the best pizza.(Relative Adverb)
  20. When is your birthday? (Interrogative Adverb)

10 Tips for Using Relative & Interrogative Adverbs

1. Understand the Basics: Know that relative adverbs introduce relative clauses and interrogative adverbs introduce questions.
2. Use ‘Where’ for Places: Use ‘where’ to refer to a place in both relative and interrogative contexts.
3. Use ‘When’ for Time: Use ‘when’ to refer to time.
4. Use ‘Why’ for Reasons: Use ‘why’ to refer to reasons.
5. Use ‘How’ for Manner or Degree: Use ‘how’ to explain the manner or degree.
6. Avoid Redundancy: Don’t use prepositions with relative adverbs unnecessarily.
7. Clarify Your Questions: Use interrogative adverbs to ask clear and specific questions.
8. Add Detail: Use relative adverbs to add detail and context to your sentences.
9. Keep it Simple: Don’t complicate sentences with too many adverbs.
10. Use Context Clues: Provide enough context in your sentence so the use of the relative or interrogative adverb makes sense.

Last Words on Relative & Interrogative Adverbs

To wrap things up, relative Adverbs give more information about a noun and connect clauses. Interrogative Adverbs ask questions. They help make your sentences more precise and your questions more engaging. Keep practicing, and don’t hesitate to use these adverbs in your writing!

Happy writing!

Linda

 

Feature Image by Franz Bachinger from Pixabay.

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