Linguapress English Grammar
Advanced level reading resources Intermediate reading resources English grammar online Language games and puzzles
Linguapress English Grammar

grammar trouble shooter
Tricky points of English ...

Distinguishing between in case of  and in the event of 

The expression in case of - its use and misuse 

The prepositional expression  in case of  is one of the most commonly misused subordinators in modern English. There are even some well-known grammar websites which get it wrong and confuse it with in the event of.
  To put things simply and clearly, in case of is a subordinating preposition, used to refer to a situation that may perhaps happen, not to one that is already true.
Example: In case of rain, don't go without an umbrella.
  = Don't go without an umbrella in case it rains.
   In the event of  is a subordinating preposition, used in situations where an action and a condition  are both true.
Example: In the event of fire, leave the building by the nearest exit.
  = If there is a fire, leave the building by the nearest exit.

   The two terms are not interchangeable - or at least, not without changing the meaning.
   To demonstrate the differences most clearly, examples speak far more loundly than rules, so compare the following pairs of examples.
1A.  In case of severe headache, take two aspirins. An unlikely message
1B.  In the event of severe headache, take two aspirins. A logical message
2A.  In case of breakdown, please call 0123 to request assistance. wrong
2B.  In the event of breakdown please call 0123 to request assistance. right

Examples 1A and 2A are almost certainly wrong.
 Example 1A means "Take 2 aspirins just in case, so that you do not get a severe headache." Now while this meaning is possible, it is unlikely; the writer probably means to say "Take two aspirins if/ when / after  you get a headache.".... and the way to express this meaning correctly is to use in the event of, not in case of, as in example 1B.
  To explain the difference in another way,
  Example 1A  tells the reader to take two aspirins before perhaps getting a headache.
  Example 1B  tells the reader to take two aspirins after getting a headache. ...

 Example 2A means "Please call 0123 so that you don't break down"... which is an improbable message. We can presume that the writer really means to imply: "Please call 0123 to request assistance if your car has broken down".... which can also be expressed as example 2B above.

A real life example...
A few years ago, some signboards were put up at a point where London's M25 motorway was being widened. The signs began exactly as example 2A above... "In case of breakdown...."   Three weeks later, the signs had been changed, and the new signs read "In the event of...."

So let's make meanings perfectly clear with some more examples:
In case of rain, don't go without an umbrella.
In case (of) implies a preventative action, a warning. The action in the main clause  (don't go without an umbrella) takes place whether the  condition (it rains) is true, or not.

In the event of fire, leave the building by the nearest exit.
In the event of  expresses a situation where action and condition are both true. The action  (leave the building) only occurs when the  subordinating condition (fire) is true. Thus a sentence using in the event of can often be rephrased using a simple conditional if clause.

More examples that illustrate the difference between in the event of, and in case of.

3. In the event of emergency, call 555.  (= Call 555 if there is an emergency)
4. In case of snow, make sure you have warm clothes. (= Take warm clothes because you may get snow)
5. In the event of victory, the team will go through to the next round (= If the team wins, it will...)
6. In case of accidents, all cyclists have to wear a helmet. (= Since accidents are possible, all cyclists....)

Do not confuse

Do not confuse in case of and in cases of or in the case of.  While  in case of should not be used to express a situation/condition that is already true, the plural form in cases of or the expression in the case of do exactly that.
  These two expressions are not common, and are only used in specific contexts, for example
In cases of severe infection, patients need to be isolated = When they are severely infected...
In the case of Hemingway, journalism was an art.


Copyright   : Website and texts ©  except where otherwise indicated

Return to Linguapress home page     Check out  more problem words in English


► Click for  Full grammar index
Selected main grammar pages
Verbs: the present tense
Verbs : the future
Past tenses
Phrasal & prepositional verbs
Gerunds, participles and -ing forms
The infinitive
Irregular verb tables
Nouns, pronouns, adjectives
Noun phrases
Adjective order in English
The possessive
Sentences & clauses
Relative clauses in English
Conditional clauses in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English
More resources
Reading resources: advanced 
Reading resources: intermediate
Crosswords and word games

Shopping from Britain ?
Discover UK online shops that deliver to Europe or worldwide
Food - fashion - household gifts
 Online shopping from Britain

CopyrightCopyright information.
Free to view, free to share,  free to use in class, free to print, but not free to copy..
If you like this page and want to share it with others,  just share a link, don't copy. uses cookies, and by continuing on our site, you accept this. To remove this message click   or otherwise click for more details