Could you please explain to me the difference in meaning and usage of in such case vs. in such a case ?

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    In such case is not grammatical English; if it occurs, it is a mishearing of in such a case. Case is a count noun and needs an indefinite article in this fixed phrase. Sep 29, 2014 at 22:01
  • Yes, you've got two options: in such a case or in such cases. Sep 30, 2014 at 4:40
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    @JohnLawler I used to think this for quite a while - until I started hanging around with philosophers and scientists. It is standard in a lot of technical writing. I could post up several thousand instances from scholarly journals printed this year alone! It is very annoying, but it is standard in such case Sep 30, 2014 at 9:06
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    I come from scientific community and my question was motivated by the fact that I encounter "in such case" all the time in my field. Thus I was curious if there is any subtlety that differentiates meanings of the two expression. But from your comments I conclude that both have the same meaning, although "in such case" is not entirely, so to say, correct. Sep 30, 2014 at 9:35
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    Interesting. I don't recall encountering it, but it's been a while since I was last on a science PhD committee (the last couple were Biology -- systematics and mosses). I can imagine it from a philosopher, but then I can imagine almost anything from one philosopher or another. It feels like it may be an analogy with in each case or in such condition/in such a condition. Effectively such users will have moved rhetoric case from a count noun to a noun like condition, which can appear with or without the article, as needed: in such (a) condition/case. Sep 30, 2014 at 15:07

1 Answer 1

  • In such a case
  • In such case

The former is the most common of the two expressions and is widely used. In such case, however, is mostly restricted to formal writing. It is very common in law, medicine and the sciences. It wouldn't be a good idea to use this in other registers, for example in fiction or letters to friends.

The meaning of the two terms is very similar, but there's one difference that I can think of. This is that in such case can sometimes mean if this is the case as in if this is the case right now. So a lawyer for example might say:

  • It has been suggested to us that you might have retained a copy of the keys for the premises. In such case, please return them immediately.

We can't really use in such a case in this instance, because in such a case can only really mean in cases like this one. It can't mean if this is the case.

Aside from this the two are basically freely interchangable in most of those registers where in such case occurs (I'll make a hedge here, in that I don't know if the legal use of the term has any special caveats).

In terms of grammar, there is also one important distinction which could account for the perseverance of in such case in formal writing. This is that in such case can take a content clause as a complement. In such a case does not. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Even in such case that the user would have copied the Client Program, the use thereof would be impossible without the connection keys generated by the Connection Manager.

[MP Nieminen, K Kalpio, J Rinkinen - US Patent 6,578,075, 2003 ]

  • In such case that the barrier to resistance of a number of molecules needs to be compared, resistance selection protocols need to be developed ... .

[I Vliegen, L Delang, J Neyts - Antiviral Methods and Protocols, 2013 ]

In these instances the idiom in such case is behaving like a conjunctive preposition (read 'subordinating conjunction').

  • Do you think this answer applies to the phrases "in such event" and "in such an event" as well?
    – Anthony
    Aug 10, 2018 at 14:45

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