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This is one I struggle with from time to time. Which is better?

  • Methodology X is more suitable in cases where users' needs are well understood up front.
  • Methodology X is more suitable in cases when users' needs are well understood up front.

Is one of these ungrammatical? Or is it purely a matter of personal preference?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Since you use "in cases..." I'd say where, because you specified a "location" when you said "is more suitable in cases where..."

You could instead use when if you deleted that part so:

...is more suitable when users' needs...

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Makes quite a bit of sense! –  Dan Tao Apr 17 '11 at 0:38

I would say "in which user's needs...". You are referring neither to spatial nor temporal location.

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But then you'd have "in cases in which". –  Cerberus Apr 17 '11 at 2:08

Go with 'where' because, as @Alenanno states, you have said 'in cases' which hints at a location, though an abstract one.

You could use 'when' with a slight reword: '...suitable at times when...'.

@Mickeyf 's suggestion (in which) would normally be a good substitute but in this particular case it would leave you with a repetition of 'in', which sounds clumsy. This option would fit better if you went with '...suitable for cases in which...'.

So, I would say that those are your choices.

Hope that helps.

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I don't see anything clumsy in using "in cases in which". But "in which" is inherently a bit stilted. –  Chinasaur Aug 14 '13 at 18:17

The sentence seems to me to be excessively wordy. The tendency to embellish sentences, in the hope of adding an air of authority, should be resisted.

Methodology X is more suitable in cases where users' needs are well understood up front.

Why not simply say

Methodology X is more suitable if users' needs are well understood.

Though the context ought also to tell us the specific methodology with which X is being compared.

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