Hi, Robby Zhu,

As you know, "when" can introduce relative clauses, usually after time nouns like year, month, day, moment, summer, winter, etc. Here is an extract from Swan's Practical English Usage:

You are just like your mother when she was young.

As you can see, in your sentence the noun before "when" is not a time noun. The point is that the proximity between the noun "mother" and the conjunction "when" is merely accidental, as the sentence above comes from:

- You are just like your mother was when she was young.

Therefore, "when she was young" is an adverbial clause of time within a clause where copulative "was" has been elided. The whole clause "(like) your mother was when she was young" functions as a subject complement. Imagine this:

- You are beautiful.
- Your mother was beautiful when she was young.
- You are just as beautiful as your mother was when she was young =>

- You are just like your mother (was) when she was young.

I hope this has clarified your doubt.

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Thanks,gustavo

That absolutely clarified my doubt about this sentence. 

But I have some relevant sentences, where the conjunctions(since, before) introduce a clause that looks like a relative clause.

1, His mother’s death when he was ten had a very great effect on him. 

2. She often recalls the time before she married him, and it was so wonderful.

3. Every hour since I came has been most enjoyable.

If we think of them together, does that mean these conjunctions can introduce a relative clause(or these sentences serve as modifiers)? I know that violated some  rules.

 

Hi again,

Relative clauses can never be introduced by conjunctions. They need to be introduced by a relative word (pronoun, adverb, or determiner) which will play a syntactic role within the relative clause (subject, object, adverbial adjunct, modifier, object to a preposition, etc.). Relative words mean what their antecedents mean. Instead, conjunctions do not have a syntactic function other than serving as linkers.

One thing is certain: the fact that a clause comes after a noun does not make it relative. Let's analyze your sentences:

1. His mother’s death when he was ten had a great effect on him. 

2. She often recalls the time before she married him, and it was so wonderful.

3. Every hour since I came has been most enjoyable.

In all three cases, I can imagine that the adverbial clause is an adjunct within a relative clause whose subject and verb have been elided. Notice that, while the adverbial clause does not need to be set off by commas, these may appear if the relative clause is non-defining, as in (1):

1. His mother’s death, which occurred when he was ten, had a great effect on him. 

2. She often recalls the time (that) she spent before she married him, and it was so wonderful.

3. Every hour (that) I've spent since I came has been most enjoyable.

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