non-wh relative or wh- relative

  1. For example, using a tape measure to determine the distance (a javelin was thrown _) yields very similar results regardless of who reads the tape.

 2. Only pay attention to the direction in life (that you yourself want to go _).

 

In 1 the antecedent is distance and a javelin was thrown is relative clause.

In 2 direction in life is antecedent and that you yourself want to go is relative clause.

 

My question is in 1 and 2 whether it is possible to use which - the distance which a javelin was thrown and the direction in life which you yourself want to go

Or should I use non-wh type relative (that-relative or zero relative) when the gaps are adverbs.

ex.) 1. A javelin was thrown 100 feet. 2. You yourself want to go north.

the distance (that) a javelin was thrown and the direction in life (that) you yourself want to go

 

And if the latter is the case, are there any other nouns like these? - except place, reason, way, time-related nouns, and occasionally manner

 

And is it possible to use where in 1 and 2 and to which in 1 and in which in 2?

 

Thank you in advance!

Original Post

Hello, Lee78, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

Your question is really interesting, and the way (that / in which) you write shows you are either native or highly proficient in the use of the language.

You are right that certain nouns or noun phrases act as adverbs. When a relative clause follows them, you can use that or no pronoun, and you will only use which if a preposition is explicitly used to introduce the adverbial (alternatively, you can sometimes use the relative adverbs where, when, how). Let’s analyze your sentences:

1. Using a tape measure to determine the distance (that) a javelin was thrown yields very similar results regardless of who reads the tape.

If a preposition is inserted, then which needs to be used. In this case, the preposition may be to if reference is made to the point reached, or over or across if reference is made to the route covered.

2. Only pay attention to the direction in life (that) you want to go.

Again, if a preposition is inserted, then which needs to be used. I agree that the correct preposition would be in.

As you must know, if a preposition is used with which the relative clause will sound much more formal: 

1’. Using a tape measure to determine the distance to which a javelin was thrown yields very similar results regardless of who reads the tape.

2’. Only pay attention to the direction in life in which you want to go.

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