Incase or in case?

Incase is not the same as the phrase “in case.” Incase is a spelling variant of the verb encase and means ‘to enclose’ or ‘cover.’ The phrase “in case” is a conjunction or adverb that introduces a condition, supposition, or stipulation.

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What is the difference between incase and “in case”?

Grammar students often ask The Word Counter if they should use “incase” or “in case,” but the answer to this question depends on what you’re trying to convey. 

English writers confuse “incase” for “in case” because “incase” is an alternate spelling of the verb “encase.” To encase is to ‘enclose’ something (such as a fence, yard, etc.) or to place something in a case (like a briefcase). 

In contrast, “in case” is a phrase of the nouncase,” which means an ‘instance,’ ‘incidence,’ ‘circumstance,’ or ‘situation.’ There are additional definitions of “case” that involve grammar, disease, or legal action, but the overarching use of “case” is to convey a particular event. 

The most common way to read “in case” is within expressions like “just in case” or “in case of,” where the phrase introduces caution toward a possible outcome. For example, 

“Keep a bucket of water nearby to use in case of fire.” 

In any case” is another common phrase that means ‘whatever happens/happened’ or ‘no matter what happens.’ Additional phrases that use “in case” include: 

  • In case of: ‘in the event of.’
  • In no case: ‘this will not happen under any circumstance.’ 
  • In that case: ‘if that happens or occurs.’

Which is more correct: incase or encase?

Several grammar sources allege that “incase” is a misspelling of the verb “encase.” However, reputable dictionaries like the New Oxford American Dictionary (American English) and the Cambridge Dictionary (British English) state otherwise. 

For either source, the spelling of “incase” is an alternative spelling of “encase”–– not a misspelling. But despite the variance in spelling, dictionaries list “encase” as the preferred spelling. 

What does in case mean?

The phrase “in case” is a conjunction or adverb that infers preparation and caution toward a future possibility. “In case” doesn’t always infer a “precaution,” however, as the anticipated event is not always unpleasant. For example,

“Bring your sweater in case we visit the beach.”
“Stay local in case of emergency.” 

In case” also suggests the definition of “if,” although we rarely use them interchangeably. For example, 

In case you didn’t know, he is the valedictorian of his class.” 

What is another word for in case?

Synonyms of the phrase “in case” include: given, if, supposing.

What does incase mean?

The word incase is a less-preferred spelling of the verb encase, which defines the act of enclosing or covering something in a case (or case-like surrounding). For example,

“Anxiety encases victims with fear.”
“When it’s cold outside, I encase myself in blankets.” 

What is another word for incase?

Synonyms of encase or incase include: blanket, cage, coop, confine, cover, encage, encircle, enclose, encompass, engulf, enfold, enwrap, envelop, surround, swaddle, swathe, wrap. 

How to use “in case” in a sentence

In case” (conjunction)

In case” is a conjunction when it connects words, clauses, or sentences to convey an idea. Additional examples conjunctions include “and,” “but,” and “if,” although “in case” is more specific. 

Sentence examples with the conjunction “in case” include:

“I’m studying extra hard in case we test for the word of the day.”
“The teacher checks Wiktionary in case her students try to plagiarize.” 
In case she’s not home, check for the spare key.” 

Writing tip: For article headlines, you can use the conjunction “in case” to reference a specific situation without a wordy phrase. For example, 

“Judge tosses convictions in case championed by [WNBA] …” –– The Denver Post

In case” (adverb)

In case” is an adverb when it modifies a clause, adjective, verb, or another adverb at the end of a statement. For example, 

“She brought extra snacks just in case.” 
“His interview went well, but he sent thank-you cards just in case.” 
“Students normally have bookmarks, but I donated more just in case.”

Writing tip: The key to using “in case” as an adverb is that it must express a relation to something else in the sentence.

How to use encase in a sentence

English writers use the verb encase (or “incase”) to describe how something is covered, surrounded, or enclosed. To use “encase” in a sentence correctly, it’s important to learn the term’s verb tenses:

  • Encase/incase (present tense)
  • Encased/incased (past participle)
  • Encasing/incasing (present participle) 

Sentence examples include: 

“The chef encases the fillet in aluminum foil before broiling.” 
“MLA writing style encased the potential of creative essays.”
“The sunset illuminates skyscraper peaks, encasing the city in shadows.” 

Writing tip: The verb encase summons the image of restriction or confinement. To avoid using “encase” frequently in one section, try using creative synonyms like ensphere, cocoon, bound, immure, or encyst

Last note: is it formal to use the phrase “in case”?

We haven’t encountered a formal English writing source that discourages the phase “in case,” whether it’s for professional stylebooks (e.g., Chicago, AP, etc.) or academic references (such as MLA or APA). However, most writers understand the importance of brevity and how wordy sentences can diminish the value of one’s work. 

Bryan Garner’s 2009 Garner’s Modern American Usage explains criticism of the word “case,” where writers like H.W. Fowler and Arthur Quiller-Couch believed the term belonged to phrases that incite “flabby writing” and “jargon.” Among these phrases are: “in case,” “in cases in which,” “in the case of,” and “in every case” (Garner 134). 

According to Garner, writers should replace phrases of “case” in the following ways: 

  • In case” = if
  • In cases which” = if, when, whenever
  • In the case of” = in (or avoid altogether

Indeed, the phrase “in case” is similar to “if” when it infers a stipulation, condition, or supposition. For larger phrases, “in case” and “if” share connotations, such as “assuming that…,” “in the event that…,” or “on the condition that…”

But as pointed out by the Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase “in case” is not always a suitable replacement for “if” and vice versa. To illustrate, let’s compare sentences and see which circumstances we can use “if” and “in case” interchangeably. 

When “in case” ≠ “if

In case:Let’s bring extra snacks in case our friends show up.” (correct)

If: “Let’s bring extra snacks if our friends show up.” (incorrect)

If: “Do you know if the store is open?” (correct)

In case: “Do you know in case the store is open?” (incorrect)

Conclusion: We cannot replace “in case” with “if” when “in case” follows a suggestive or affirmative statement while preceding a condition. Likewise, we cannot replace “if” with “in case” when “if” introduces a yes/no question. 

When “in case” = “if

If: If you don’t know, now you know.” (correct)

In case: In case you don’t know, now you know.” (correct)

If: If Google shuts down, use DuckDuckGo.” (correct)

In case: In case Google shuts down, try DuckDuckGo.” (correct)

Conclusion: There are few instances when “in case” and “if” can replace each other in a sentence. For the example above, the replacement is appropriate because “if” and “in case” introduce a condition as a preposition. Most writers rearrange sentences for structural fluidity:

If: If the store is closed, let’s go to the gas station.” (correct)

In case: “Let’s go to the gas station in case the store is closed.” (correct)

FAQ: Related to incase vs. in case

Do American use the verb “incase” or “encase”?

The Collins Online Dictionary believes “incase” is a form of American English. But unlike most American vs. British English terms (such as “flier vs. flyer” or “theatre vs. theater”), the majority of reputable dictionaries omit a national preference between “incase” and “encase.” Instead, British and American English dictionaries list “incase” as a spelling variant of “encase” and refer to “encase” for the standard definition. 

Is the word incase one word or two words?

Incase” consists of one word when it’s an alternate spelling of the verb encase. “In case” is two words when it’s a conjunction or adverb in phrases like ‘just in case’ or ‘in case of.’ 

Are words like “incase” and “in case” homophones?

English grammar classifies words like “incase,” “encase,” and “in case” as homophones because they have similar pronunciations and spellings, but they carry different meanings. 

If you’re looking to learn more about homophones, The Word Counter covers several commonly confused words like: 

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between incase vs. in case with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: incase is a misspelling of encase. 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. __________ dictionaries prefer spelling incase as ‘encase.’ 
    a. American English
    b. British English 
    c. Both
    d. None of the above
  3. “In case” is a ________________. 
    a. Conjunction
    b. Adverb
    c. Phrasal noun
    d. A and B
  4. “Incased” is the _____________ of the verb incase. 
    a. Present participle
    b. Past participle 
    c. Future participle 
    d. A and B
  5. True or false: “If” is always a suitable replacement for “in case.” 
    a. True
    b. False

Answers

  1. B
  2. C
  3. D
  4. B
  5. B

Sources

  1. Case.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  2. Encase.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  3. Encase.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  4. Garner, Bryan. “Case.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 134. 
  5. If.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  6. Incase.” Collins Online Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, 2020. 
  7. In any case.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  8. In case.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  9. “Incase.” New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 887. 
  10. In case (of).” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.