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Are you unsure about the difference between "if" and "in case"?

Have a look at the latest Tip of the Week to find out more.


"If" vs. "In Case"

“If” and “in case” are often used interchangeably by German speakers, but they actually have different meanings. See if you can complete the following sentence:

    I’ll take my umbrella with me  if  /  in case    it rains.

This is a trick question! The sentence could be completed either way, but it would have two different meanings.

“If” is just used to express a condition. The sentence “I’ll take an umbrella with me if it rains,” is a correct sentence, and it means “I’ll wait to see if it rains. If it does rain, I will take the umbrella. If it doesn’t rain, I won’t take the umbrella.”

In case
“In case” is used to express a possibility or a precaution – you do something now, in case something else happens (or doesn’t happen) later. The sentence “I’ll take my umbrella with me in case it rains,” is also a correct sentence, and it means “I’ll take my umbrella with me so that I will be prepared, because it might rain.”

Here are a few more examples for you:

  • If someone doesn’t want coffee, I can make some tea. (I will wait to see if someone doesn’t want coffee, and then I will make some tea if necessary.)
  • We’ve made some tea as well, in case someone doesn’t want coffee. (The tea has been made in advance, as a precaution, but we don’t know if anyone will drink it.)

NB: The phrase “just in case” is very common and is used to express that one is just taking precautions. For example:

  • I’ll take my umbrella just in case.
  • I’ll make some tea just in case.

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