Replacing if – Omitting ifif vs. whenin case vs. if

1. Replacing if

If can be replaced by words or expressions with a similar meaning.

The most common are:

  • as long as
  • assuming (that)
  • on condition (that)
  • on the assumption (that)
  • provided (that)
  • supposing (that)
  • unless
  • with the condition (that)

2. Omitting if

Had I known... (instead of If I had known...)

Were you my daughter,... (instead of: If you were my daughter,...)

Should you need my advice,... (instead of: If you should need my advice,...)

3. if ↔ when

3.1. if and when are interchangeable when the statement of the conditional clause is a fact or a general issue (also known as zero conditional)

  • If you heat ice, it melts.
  • When you heat ice, it melts

3.2. if is used for something that, according to the speaker, might happen.

We can spend the afternoon on the beach if the weather is fine.

3.3. when is used for something that, according to the speaker, will happen.

I will clean up the kitchen right away when I'm back from work.

4. in case ↔ if

in case of can be used to shorten an if-clause as shown below:

  • If there is a fire, leave the room.
  • In case of fire, leave the room.

While if expresses a condition (1), in case is used to express a possibility (2).

  1. I need painkillers if I'm in severe pain.
  2. I need painkillers in case I'm in severe pain.

The expression just in case is used pretty much the same way.

  • I got you a pizza just in case you were hungry. (I don't know whether you are hungry)