I am wondering if I can say

In the case of A and B, the book does provide much information.

I am asking this question, because "case" is a singular noun but A and B imply a plural phrase. I mean, I would understand why it is fine if some one said

In the case of A or B, the book does provide much information.

However, I am having a sort of logical debate with myself on the first one with and. Shouldn't it be actually "in the cases of A and B"?

  • I think you could say "In the cases of A and B". It may depend on what A and B are, whether they constitute a single case, or how they relate to each other. Jun 8 '20 at 6:31
  • Syntactically, what follows of has no bearing of any kind on case. Just as it wouldn't with matter. (1) In the matter of John Doe and Jane Smith versus the state. (2) In the case of the mad scientist and her crazy intern who stole from the school and conducted illicit experiments. The only thing that matters if if you actually are speaking of a single case or multiple cases. It's impossible to tell solely from the noun clause that follows of. Only context outside of the immediate sentence itself will determine if it should be singular or plural. Jun 8 '20 at 6:49
  • @JasonBassford ... so to take a hypothetical example: "In the cases of oaks and elms, you would need a besom made of hazel" -- is this an instance of how you suggest the plural should be used? Jun 8 '20 at 7:42
  • @PrimeMover I'm saying that that sentence itself communicates nothing about if it's a single cause that involves both oaks and elms, or if it's one case that involves oaks and another case that involves elms. Both interpretations are possible. The one sentence, on its own, cannot tell you how many cases there are. Jun 8 '20 at 12:48

It depends on how many cases you have.

If "A and B" are two things which will both occur together, and you want to describe that single scenario, then you would write "case," because there's just one case, the case of both A and B. This is especially true if "A and B" form a fixed phrase such as gin and tonic.

If "A and B" are two things which might occur separately, but the book provides information in both of those scenarios, then you would write "cases," because you have two. You might imagine that we should use "A or B" in this construction, but that is not required, because it's an abbreviation of "the case of A and the case of B."

When using "the case of A or B," the singular is acceptable (and, arguably, preferred), because we again have a single case, in which either A or B is present. You could in principle write "the case of A or the case of B," but that's a bit harder to follow, and probably not a great idea to abbreviate.

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