Saturday, 10 February 2007

In case

In case

We use in case to talk about taking precautions, doing something because something else might happen:

During the drought, keep the bath filled with water - just in case it is needed.

I've bought some candles in case there are more electricity cuts.

In case I forget, remind me to check the tyre pressure before we load up the car.

In case or if?

When we use in case we are mostly describing future possible situations. When we use if we are talking about conditions that apply. Compare the following and note the differences in meaning.

I'll fill up the car with petrol in case you need to go to Brighton. ( = I'll fill up now, because you might need it later.)

I'll fill up the car with petrol if you need to go to Brighton. ( = Let me know if you need to go to Brighton and then I'll fill up with petrol.)

Take the mobile phone with you in case the car breaks down.
If the car breaks down, give me a ring.

in case of

Note that in case of is a prepositional phrase used with a noun which is similar in meaning to an if-clause. Compare the following:

In case of fire, exit from the building by the stairs. Do not attempt to use the lift.

If there is a fire, leave the building via the stairs. Don't try to use the lift.

In cases of difficulty, phone this help line.
If you experience any problems, phone this help line.

A typical feature of "Czenglish" is the use of the idiomatic "in case of" (normally reserved for "emergency" contexts such as "damage" or "fire") instead of the correct "in the case of"