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I wonder which form(s) are correct amongst the following:

  • "in case of a war"
  • "in case of war"

Examples of use:

  • "In case of war the economy will collapse."
  • "He plans to move to Miami in case of a war."
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  • They are both correct. So to would be in case of the war, if a particular war had been identified ahead of time. There is nothing different about this than how we use articles in general. Jun 26, 2020 at 2:44

2 Answers 2

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Both are correct but have slightly different connotations. "In case of a war" may imply that I'm imagining a specific war that might happen, perhaps in the near future. "In case of war" implies a more general attitude about a hypothetical future war.

A couple of other notes:

"In case of war the economy will collapse" is a bit awkward. I take it to mean "If there is a war, the economy will collapse." A more natural example might be "In case of war, the government will conscript 100,000 men". This means "If there is a war in the future, there will be a draft". This is a subtle difference but it's describing a planned future action, rather than just a prediction.

There is another sense of this phrase, more similar to your second example: "I'm stocking up on canned food in case of war". This means I am stocking up because there may be a war. This is the same sense as "just in case".

While we're at it, "He plans to move to Miami in case of a war." is ambiguous. I don't know if you mean "If there is a war, he will move to Miami." or "He plans moving to Miami (soon) because there might be a war".

"In case of fire, break glass" is commonly written on containers for fire extinguishers. Here it definitely means that you should break the glass only if there's a fire. It does not direct you to break the glass now "just in case" there might be a fire in the future.

English is hard.

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Copying the answer from the comment section:

They are both correct. So to would be in case of the war, if a particular war had been identified ahead of time. There is nothing different about this than how we use articles in general. – Jason Bassford Jun 26 at 2:44

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  • Respectfully disagree with the last sentence. "in case of war" has no article and is a somewhat unusual construction. Dec 24, 2020 at 21:26

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