Where to go?

Writers often miss the mark by using where, as in “He told a joke where two guys walked into a bar,” or “I remember a war movie where a general slapped a wounded soldier,” or “It was a year where the Tigers were in contention for the division title.”

Where may indeed be used to refer to a situation or a respect as well as a place, Webster’s says (“Where they were strong, we were weak” and “There is never peace where men are greedy,” for instance). Our sample sentences, however, do not involve any of these.

Use in which in the first two: “He told a joke in which two guys walked into a bar” and “I remember a war movie in which a general slapped a wounded soldier.” In the third, the answer is when or in which: “It was a year when the Tigers were in contention for the division title,” or “It was a year in which the Tigers were in contention for the division title.” (And may the Tigers win it this year.)

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