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Session 51

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

Activity 1

In case vs If

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? James explains to us the difference between in case and if. Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

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Hi everyone! I'm James. We're going to look at the difference between in case and if in today's English In A Minute.

Look at these examples:

  1. I'll call you if I need help with my homework.
  2. I'll call you in case I need help with my homework.

In the example with if, it means that I might call you in the future, but it depends if I need help or not. The second sentence with in case means I'm going to call you before I do my homework to prevent any problems.

Let's take a look at another example:

  1. I'll take an umbrella in case it rains.
  2. I'll take an umbrella if it rains.

Just like in our first example, in case means I am going to take my umbrella anyway to prevent any problems. But in the example with if, this means that you only take an umbrella because it is raining when you leave.

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In case vs if

Both in case and if are conjunctions. They are used to join clauses together into sentences. The in case or if clause often goes in the middle of a sentence, but it can go at the beginning. In this case, separate the clauses with a comma.

  • Take a bottle of water in case you get thirsty.
  • In case you get thirsty, take a bottle of water
  • Call the police if you need assistance.
  • If you need assistance, call the police.

In case
We use in case when we want to talk about something that might happen later. This is often an action taken as a precaution in order to prevent some later problem that we have predicted. In other words: Do this because that could happen in the future. 

  • I'll call you in case I need help with my homework.
  • I'll take an umbrella in case it rains.

We use if to talk about reacting to something that has happened already. In this case, first something occurs and then we take action to deal with it. In other words: This happened, so do that.

  • I'll call you if I need help with my homework.
  • I'll take an umbrella if it rains.


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