when

1 of 4

adverb

ˈ(h)wen How to pronounce when (audio)
(h)wən
1
: at what time
when will you return
2
a
: at or during which time
b
: and then
3
: at a former and usually less prosperous time
brag fondly of having known him whenVance Packard

when

2 of 4

conjunction

ˈ(h)wen How to pronounce when (audio)
(h)wən
1
a
: at or during the time that : while
went fishing when he was a boy
b
: just at the moment that
stop writing when the bell rings
c
: at any or every time that
when he listens to music, he falls asleep
2
: in the event that : if
a contestant is disqualified when he disobeys the rules
3
a
: considering that
why use water at all when you can drown in itStuart Chase
b
: in spite of the fact that : although
quit politics when I might have had a great career in it
4
: the time or occasion at or in which
tomorrow is when we must decide
humor is when you laughEarl Rovit

when

3 of 4

pronoun

: what or which time
life-long homes for those … who have lived here since whenKim Waller

when

4 of 4

noun

: the time in which something is done or comes about
troubled his head very little about the hows and whens of lifeLaurence Sterne

Examples of when in a Sentence

Adverb When did the American Civil War begin? The detective asked me when I last saw her. When is the next performance? It was a time when people didn't have to lock their doors. the happy days when we were together We're still waiting for the test results, when we'll decide our next move. Conjunction When he finally showed up, he was drunk. When I was in school, we didn't have computers. You can go when the bell rings. Call me when you get home. Things were better when he got a job. When he watches television, he falls asleep. She quit politics when she might have had a great career in it. Pronoun He retired in 1998, since when he has been devoting his time to gardening. You need the report by when?
Recent Examples on the Web
Adverb
In the audience, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) beamed when Mr. Biden referred to him as the longest-serving Senate leader; that was an important personal milestone for Mr. McConnell. Siobhan Hughes, WSJ, 8 Feb. 2023 What isn’t known for certain is when the family was killed. Jim Salter, ajc, 8 Feb. 2023 See all Example Sentences for when 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'when.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adverb

Middle English, from Old English hwanne, hwenne; akin to Old High German hwanne when, Old English hwā who — more at who

Conjunction

Middle English, from Old English hwanne, hwenne, from hwanne, hwenne, adverb

First Known Use

Adverb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Conjunction

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Pronoun

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1616, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of when was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near when

Cite this Entry

“When.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/when. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

when

1 of 3 adverb
(ˈ)hwen How to pronounce when (audio)
hwən,
(ˈ)wen,
wən
1
: at what time
when will you return
2
: at or during which time
a time when things were upset

when

2 of 3 conjunction
1
a
: at or during the time that : while
went fishing when we were on vacation
b
: just at the moment that
left when the bell rang
c
: every time that
my mouth waters when I see food
2
: in the event that : if
when players cheat, they are disqualified
3
: in spite of the fact that
: although
went outside when she should have done her chores

when

3 of 3 pronoun
ˌhwen How to pronounce when (audio)
ˌwen
: what or which time
since when have you known that

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