Expressions such as “In Cases When” or “In Cases Where” are commonly used to provide explanations, or present details, that should make a subject easier to understand.
But are both forms correct? If so, how and when should we use them?
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“In Cases Where” is the correct form, while “In Cases When” is incorrect. “Where” is a conjunction that indicates location. “Cases” indicate clear points to refer to, even if abstract ones. “When”, however, indicates time. It makes no sense to apply “when” to “cases”, because “case” isn’t temporal.
Let’s think a bit more about it. But before, let’s see some examples:
- The protocol works in cases where the patient doesn’t need another medication.
- The protocol works in cases when the patient doesn’t need other medication.
- In times when there’s a pandemic, people should stay home.
- In times where there’s a pandemic, people should stay home.
Take a look at the two sets of sentences. To use “In Cases When” sounds weird, because “Cases” don’t connect with time. “Cases” point to a location (a place where to look for those “Cases”). Therefore, the correct adverb to use with it is “where”.
On the flip side, when the sentence presents a temporal issue (such as “in times”, as in the second set of sentences), the conjunction “where” doesn’t fit well. How can we set a location for time?
Since it’s just not possible, because time isn’t something you can locate, in those cases, the conjunction ”When” is more appropriate.
“When” is a conjunction that describes time. You can look up its meaning anywhere, and you’ll find a description that reflects temporal things. For this reason, “When” can only be used to complement sentences that relate to time – and, consequently, doesn’t fit in “In Cases When”.
Since “In Cases When” is incorrect, let’s see how to use “When” in similar phrases, that carry the same meaning:
- Fighting for your rights is suitable when you feel vulnerable.
- Tutoring works for students when they put in the effort.
- When in trouble, people should seek help.
- In moments when good things happen, you must celebrate.
- In times of happiness, people share their joy.
“When” fits well in sentences where the time, the moment or any temporal concept is present. When discussing cases (which are possible to locate or pin point) “When” just doesn’t fit in.
“In Cases Where” should be the chosen form in this scenario. “Cases” will always hint at a location, even if it’s an abstract one. In other words, “In Cases Where” refers to repeatable occurrences that can be observed. “Where”, in this scenario, helps point out those occurrences.
Let’s see examples of how to use “In Cases Where” in a sentence:
- Fighting for your rights is suitable in cases where people are vulnerable.
- Tutoring works in cases where students need support.
- In cases when there’s trouble, you must seek help.
- In cases where good outcomes are achieved, we should celebrate.
- In cases where there’s no solution, just give up.
Note that in all of those sentences, time issues aren’t discussed. The word “Cases” points to clear, findable examples or circumstances. For that reason, “Where” fits is, and “In Cases Where” should be the form used in the sentence.
Which one of those two forms is used more often? Take a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below.
“In Cases When” almost doesn’t show up in the graph. Since it’s an incorrect form, it makes sense that it’d not show up as often.
However, we also notice that “In Cases Where” is being used less frequently, as time goes by. We believe this is the case, because there are simpler ways to express the same idea, causing the form to slowly become obsolete.
Can you think of other forms to say “In Cases Where”, that sound more modern?
Simply put, you should never use “In Cases Where”. If your sentence involves temporal subjects, you should look for a different way to express your thoughts. “In Cases Where” can be used every time you wish to point out something that is repetitive and you wish to explain and clarify.