I was taught that "in case" does not mean "if". As in:

  • I will give you my card in case you need it. (Take it and use in case of need in the future)

  • I will give you my card if you need it. (When you need it, I will give it to you.)

But then I do not understand the following:

In case you have seen this man...

Should it not be if?

  • QOI gives a good answer, but your question does not provide sufficient context. 'In case you have seen this man, let me know' doesn't work, whereas QOI's example is fine. Dec 16, 2014 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


I don't think it's inherently incorrect. Depending on the context you could use in case in a sentence in a past tense (e.g. Please check your phone's pictures in case you have seen this man but didn't notice).

I think it's just the sentence you chose makes it hard to find a fitting context.

With this I don't mean to imply that if and in case are interchangeable, just that you could use in case in that sentence without it being incorrect.

  • 1
    Here, 'in case' means / connotes 'to examine the possibility that you have ... ' (with the implication of your taking relevant further action). Not replaceable by 'if' (with the same meaning) here. Dec 16, 2014 at 12:13
  • That's true, but I didn't mean to imply that they are interchangeable, just that in case can be used correctly in a similar sentence. I'm going to edit my answer to reflect this.
    – QOI
    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:17
  • I was not saying you were, just suggesting additional analysis. (Can I get away with the comma there?) Dec 16, 2014 at 12:28

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