How To Use In Case vs. If – English Vocabulary Lesson

Michael Grammar 6 Comments

In the winter in New York, it’s a good idea to carry an umbrella, in case it rains. The weather can be a bit unpredictable, so in case you’ve never been here in the winter, I’d suggest wearing clothes in layers. This way, in case it gets warm in the afternoon, you can take of a layer or two. Then, just in case it is cold, you’ll be warm with all of the layers.

Today, let’s have a look at the phrase in case. Do you know how to use in case? Have another look at the paragraph above and then check the lesson here.

We use the phrase in case to mean because it is possible. The grammar is in case + subject + verb.

  • The sky is a little dark. I’m going to take my umbrella in case it rains. It’s possible that it will rain.
  • I think Jane will call today or tomorrow. In case she calls while I am at lunch, please tell her to hold on and then come to the café to get me.

Notice the difference between in case and if. We use in case to talk about what someone will do now because something will happen later. We use if to talk about a situation that might happen later. Compare these two sentences:

  • Let’s get the coffee pot set up in case Joe comes. He loves coffee. We will set up the coffee pot now because there is a possibility that Joe will come later.
  • Let’s set up the coffee pot if Joe comes. He loves coffee. If Joe comes, we will set up the coffee pot at that time.

We use the phrase in case of when we write a notice, generally to give instructions in the event of an emergency situation:

  • In case of fire, use the stairs. Do not use the elevator.
  • This is the phone number you should call in case of an emergency.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!