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場合は、doesn't seem much of a conditional grammar structure to me but in class we learnt this form alongside たら、なら、と&ば。 How does 場合は、compare to these structures and how do you correctly use it? (as in contextually not how to conjugate)

Thank you!

  • Are you asking about the grammatical usage or how the meaning compares? – kandyman Nov 13 '17 at 18:26
  • How the meaning compares, it seems to me to be pretty interchangeable with ~tara but less common, I was confused about when to use it. – lois.e Nov 13 '17 at 18:40
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It is often used in conditional/hypothetical constructs.

(もし) Phrase/Mini-Sentence A + 場合(に)は + Phrase/Mini-Sentence B

would be the usual pattern with 「もし」 and 「に」 being optional. It means:

"If/In case A, then B."

「場合{ばあい}は」, thus, is used just like 「たら」 and 「れば」

Examples:

「(もし)雨{あめ}が降{ふ}った場合(に)は、ピクニックは中止{ちゅうし}となります。」 = "If it rains, the picnic will be canceled."

「(もし)サンドイッチがなかった場合(に)は、おにぎりを買{か}ってきて。」 = "If they have no sandwiches (left), please get some rice balls."

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~場合 means "in case" or "if". It's a relatively stiff expression and is used more often in written formal documents, polite business conversations and such.

~場合 looks like a form of a verb, but it's normally not called a "form". 場合 is a noun which is usually translated into English without using a noun. The preceding verb modifies 場合 as a relative clause. That's why 場合 can also be modified by attributive/adjectival expressions (e.g., その場合 = "in that case ...", 多くの場合 = "in many cases ...", 作戦Aの場合 = "in case we choose strategy A...").

English also has some nouns that work like conjunctives, for example:

The moment she was alone she opened the letter.
(彼女は)1人になるとすぐ手紙を開いた。

Other similar examples in Japanese include ~時 ("when ~"), ~とたん ("as soon as ~"), ~ところ ("upon ~"). These are special nouns, not part of a form.

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