Definition of when in English:

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Pronunciation: /wɛn/

interrogative adverb

1At what time: when did you last see him? [with preposition]: since when have you been interested?
More example sentences
  • He said it was expected to be reopened to pedestrians today but it was not yet clear when it would open to traffic.
  • This is as well as not knowing when they will arrive.
  • We don't know when the pub will reopen, although we hope it will be as soon as possible.
1.1How soon: when can I see you?
More example sentences
  • When can I see you?
1.2In what circumstances: when would such a rule be justifiable?
More example sentences
  • I was moving to Dublin and nobody was going to tell me when and where to smoke.
  • When will we meet again?

relative adverb

At or on which (referring to a time or circumstance): Saturday is the day when I get my hair done
More example sentences
  • Cancun has shown once again that we are living in a time when great struggles are shaping history.
  • We must not return to the days when former Home Secretaries cut police numbers.
  • On a day when big stories leapt off the leaderboard, Donald was among the best.


1At or during the time that: I loved maths when I was at school
More example sentences
  • Theatre is her first love and when she is not performing she can invariably be found among the audience.
  • He was looking out the front door yesterday when I had it open to feed the hens.
  • One survivor said a meeting was being held in an upstairs room when the blast occurred.
1.1After: call me when you’ve finished
More example sentences
  • There was silence in the room when she finished her description of her trip to Africa.
  • Ideally, you start it when you arrive, and you finish sometime before you go on stage to show it.
  • We are going to make her a book-nook in her room when we move and this cushion is a good start.
1.2At any time that; whenever: can you spare five minutes when it’s convenient?
More example sentences
  • She used to shout at the children when they left the room with it still on.
  • If grown on a window ledge, it may be necessary to bring the plants into the room at night when there is frost.
  • She can smoke as much as she wants when in her room and we get on just fine.
2After which; and just then (implying suddenness): he had just drifted off to sleep when the phone rang
More example sentences
  • He was about to dictate into his recorder about the progress of his work when his mobile phone rang.
  • I had just nodded off to sleep when I was woken up by an almighty crash from their house.
  • Devlin just followed her out into his bedroom, when his cell phone started ringing.
3In view of the fact that; considering that: why bother to paint it when you can photograph it with the same effect?
More example sentences
  • You cannot claim to give the facts straight when there is no-one giving the other view.
  • I am in the fourth year of my own fight, which is considered a long time when you have the kind of cancer I have.
  • It is fantastic to even consider him when he has not been a pupil for two years.
4Although; whereas: I’m saying it now when I should have told you long ago
More example sentences
  • People could at times be standing at the back when there was room in the front of the train.
  • They behaved as if they were in their living room at home, when, clearly they weren't.
  • The danger is trying to put your nose through when there is no room and it ends in an accident.


Old English hwanne, hwenne; of Germanic origin; related to German wenn 'if', wann 'when'.

Words that rhyme with when

Adrienne, again, amen, Ardennes, Behn, Ben, Benn, Bren, cayenne, Cévennes, Dairen, den, en, fen, gen, glen, Glenn, Guyenne, Gwen, hen, julienne, Karen, ken, Len, Loren, men, Nene, Ogaden, paren, pen, Penn, Phnom Penh, Rennes, Shenzhen, Sun Yat-sen, ten, then, Tlemcen, wren, yen, zazen, Zen

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: when

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