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In the following sentence, is the indefinite article necessary? The word "case" is a countable noun, and I expected an indefinite article in front when it's used in singular form.

If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware that this book may have been stolen property and reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher. In such [a] case neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

2 Answers 2

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"In such case" and "in such a case" are both possible. I compared their frequencies at Google Ngram Viewer, which showed that both phrases have very similar frequencies. I also included "in such cases", and found that it is more common than either of the other two:

Google Ngram Viewer

This dictionary shows "such" as both a determiner and as a predeterminer.
Macmillan Dictionary "such"

Such can be used in the following ways:
as a predeterminer (followed by “a” or “an” and a singular noun): She’s such an intelligent woman. It was such a shame that you couldn’t be with us.
as a determiner (followed by a plural or uncountable noun): Such men are dangerous.We’ve had such awful weather lately.

That would seem to say that using "such case" without the article makes that use of "case" uncountable.
At any rate, the usage data shows that both forms are acceptable.

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  • Curiously, "case" is never listed as an uncountable noun.
    – Apollyon
    Sep 15, 2020 at 3:10
  • It seems to be a partial synonym of "circumstance" and "event". Both of those occur after such, with and without an "a" between. Sep 15, 2020 at 3:48
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Either one is correct, but there is a subtle difference in meaning between the two: "in such case" refers to a singular "case" (i.e. something you may experience once, or not at all); "in such a case" refers to one of a whole series of cases you might encounter.

In this example, you will most likely purchase the author's book only once. Therefore you are encountering the potential case of the cover missing once.

"In such a case" might be used, for example, when someone is giving instructions to a newly-hired delivery driver: "Sometimes when you arrive you find their address is an apartment building, but they have not entered their apartment number, in such a case you should call their phone to ask them where they want the food to be left".

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