case

case
case
1. There are two distinct nouns:
a) The one meaning ‘an example of an occurrence’: In this case they are wrong. From this use there have developed several idiomatic phrases (in case, in any case, in some cases, in the case of) as well as several more concrete meanings, notably in law (the case for the prosecution) and medicine (seven cases of cholera). There is also the grammatical meaning, which seems to have little to do with the others but is connected etymologically. The word dates from the 13c in English and is derived ultimately from Latin casus, ‘falling’, hence ‘occurrence’.
b) The one meaning ‘receptacle or container etc.’: Put the cases in the car. The origin of this word is Latin capsa (with the same meaning), and it also dates from the 13c in English. Although this word has given rise to several technical meanings, e.g. in masonry and printing, it has been far less productive of idioms.
2. Most people use these words without difficulty and probably without any awareness that there are two separate words. Usually they do not get in each other's way, but beware of using a phrase with case, especially in the case of, when it is not needed: In every case except that of France the increase has been more rapid than in the case of the U.K. [where In every country except France the increase has been more rapid than in the U.K. is preferable]. Fowler gave many examples as evidence of what he called ‘flabby writing’, but such a strong reaction is less justified today when the idiom seems dated and in decline.
3. The idiom in case is also a conjunction: Take your umbrella in case it rains. In AmE, it can also mean ‘if’ (i.e. it is a shortening of the phrase in the case that): In case it rains I can't go [= If it rains I can't go]. Coming at the beginning of a sentence, this use can cause initial confusion to speakers of BrE.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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