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Line breaks: when
Pronunciation: /wɛn

Definition of when in English:

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

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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.


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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'.

Definition of when in:

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