If and In Case (English Conditionals)

We can use if and in case to talk about future possibilities. If is about what might happen. In case is about precautions that we take now to avoid problems in the future. See examples and learn the difference in this video.

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If and In Case Video Script

You shouldn’t put the knives in that way.
It’ll be all right.
Someone will cut themselves if you put them in like that.
No they won’t. Ow!
Luckily I put some plasters here in case there was an accident.
Thank you.

We use ‘if’ and ‘in case’ to talk about future possibilities. But they mean different things.

Are we driving to New York tomorrow?
I don’t know. We might have to.
We need to fill the car with petrol if we do.
We can do that in the morning.
OK.

Are we driving to New York tomorrow?
I don’t know. We might have to.
I’ll fill the car with petrol now, in case we do. See you later.

‘If’ is about things we’ll do later, if something else happens.
‘In’ case’ is about things we do now, so we’re ready for something that might happen in the future.
So ‘in case’ is useful for talking about precautions, when we try to avoid problems in the future.

Ow!
Luckily, I put some plasters here in case there was an accident.

Oh! Are you going out?
Yeah.
Take your phone in case I need to call you.
OK.
Err, and take your keys. Just in case I’m not here when you get back.
OK.
And take your unbrella, just in case it should rain.
I’m only going next door.
Oh!

Notice the forms we use: simple present, simple past, and ‘should’.
But we don’t use ‘will’ and we don’t use ‘would’. These phrases are wrong.

Why not write that down, just in case you forget?

This is my wife’s idea, and I must say I think it’s rather dangerous.
I suppose you all know how to use one of these things, but in case you don’t…
You just press down on this lever with your thumb and then pull the trigger.

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Click here to learn about the verbs avoid and prevent
Click here to see more grammar videos

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