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Worst Case or Worse Case

Anyone have an explanation on this expression? The proper english indicates it should read “Worst-case scenario”. However the vocal sound is “Worse-case scenario”. Is there a proper way?

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The phrase is "worst-case scenario". The missing "t" is just a fact of language and pronunciation -- when words/sounds run into each other like that, some sounds are unconsciously dropped. In writing, however, it is always "worst".

dave January 27, 2005, 3:39pm

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If you are saying worse case, its that you are not enunciating the t at the end of worst. Its just laziness.

jibber January 28, 2005, 12:22am

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It's not laziness at all, just a fact of speech. No one, including yourself, enunciates every letter of a word in everyday speech.

dave January 28, 2005, 1:25am

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Just because people don't pronounce every consonant in every word doesn't mean it's not laziness...

Häakon January 28, 2005, 2:41am

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It's properly pronounced "worst."

Laziness, however, is how ALL linguistic change comes about.

speedwell2 January 28, 2005, 8:22am

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Hypothetically, would it correctly be the 'worse-case scenario' if there were only two possible events, since it'd be inappropriate to use the superlative degree?

Persephone Imytholin February 1, 2005, 5:51am

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No, because we're too lazy to tweak the cliched phrase for grammar agreement. :)

"Worst-case" is a compound adjective that I've also seen modifying words like "performance" and "outcome." The use with "scenario" was popularized by a morbid, but cute, little yellow book called "The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook." (Don't ask.)

I'm not sure where the phrase originated, but my guess would be in military strategy, where several (i.e. more than two) projected results of any given decision would naturally be examined.

speedwell2 February 1, 2005, 8:18am

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After saying this to myself a lot of times in dull repetition, I notice that I say something the falls between a strongly enunciated "worst" and the word "worse". It's like my tongue gets ready to enunciate the "t", but then blunts it, so that the words don't come out sounding like "wors-tuh-case".

That's just how I say it, there is a bit of a pause between "worst" and "case", where technically you should probably hear a "tuh" but don't. Other peoples' pronunciations may well be identical to their pronunciations of "worse case".

sukotto February 1, 2005, 4:02pm

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They are two entirely different words with entirely different meanings. In Worst Case Scenario (which is correct) it is referring to the worst case that could possibly arise. Once it arises, it is possible for someone to say "I have seen a worse case than that". Hence, they are different words with different meanings.

psmith June 23, 2005, 5:11pm

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Persephone, if there were only two cases, the worse of the two would still be the worst-case scenario. However, if there were THREE, then I suppose the middle one would be the worse-case, but not the worst-case:).
And Häakon, I'd just love to hear you describe having your photo prints developed by the Photo Prince.
Don't even get me started on "for all intensive purposes..."

porsche October 20, 2005, 6:07pm

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Which is it;

A. "this vendor isn't too bad, there's worse."
B. "this vendor isn't too bad, there's worst."
C. "this vendor isn't too bad, there are worse."
D. "this vendor isn't too bad, there are worst."

I gots ta Know?

Pismo Bird January 23, 2007, 1:47am

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It's "C", Pismo. You could still make it a contraction, but it would be: "this vendor isn't too bad, there're worse." I only recently noticed just how common this type of mismatched case has become. It's just plain easier to say "there's", "here's", etc. "There're" is harder to say, but correct for the plural case. Its proper use also requires forethought. Oh, and remember, "vendor" may be singular, but "there are worse" really means "there are worse vendors".

porsche January 23, 2007, 12:15pm

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C is standard, but B sounds ok to me too. It is common to use "there's" as an indeclinable element that is used with both singular and plural nouns.

John January 23, 2007, 2:35pm

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I mean A sounds ok to me too.

John January 23, 2007, 2:35pm

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You all are idiots. Worst-case scenario=you all have kids.

Me February 2, 2007, 11:48am

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The thing you all over look is that the part of the brain that controls language is always striving for the more efficient way to communicate. This same argument was has 100 years ago about the use of contractions I am vs I'm... eventually the more efficient way wins...

Dave October 2, 2008, 6:24am

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No need to make a big deal of this. It happens all the time:

wanna = want to
wudja = what did you...

and for those of you who just said "what did you" out loud, I'm sure you still said:

"what didja"

or at least

"what didju"

Anonymous October 2, 2008, 7:05am

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Worst case scenario = you have many, many children that bleed, break your bank account, and finally form a line to come punch you in the gut while you're on your deathbed just before they take turns unplugging and plugging back in your life support system just to see you suffer some more.

anonymous December 2, 2008, 7:18am

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Don't knach it- there's always wurst

Dr. Otto December 26, 2008, 2:43pm

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As long as we're sort of on the subject, here's a page discussing the phrase "worse comes to worse":

Pete said: <Once it arises, it is possible for someone to say "I have seen a worse case than that".>

It would be possible for someone to say that, but not correct. The correct statement is "I have a seen a case worse than that". Also, it's "I have seen cases other than that", not "I have seen other cases than that".

UIP December 27, 2008, 2:47pm

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I am sure worst case scenario is correct, but I want to know about the hyphen. Should there be a hyphen or not? I would think not, but I could be wrong..

Carol February 6, 2009, 3:50am

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UIP, the link you listed is interesting, but everyone should be aware, it is really part of a list of a particular college professor's pet peeves, not an authoritative grammar reference. Yes, he is an English professor and much of his complaints are valid, but many of them are questionable.

porsche February 6, 2009, 6:26am

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From - A common error in using adjectives and adverbs arises from using the wrong form for comparison. For instance, to describe one thing we would say poor, as in, "She is poor." To compare two things, we should say poorer, as in, "She is the poorer of the two women." To compare more than two things, we should say poorest, as in, "She is the poorest of them all."

SO... in this case, it goes from bad to worst.
One = bad, Two = worse, Three or More = worst

daivd.j.yalch October 1, 2009, 2:14pm

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Opinion: Both usages are allowed. It depends on what you really mean.

You can run a variety of scenarios to determine a variety of "cases". If you run scenarios to find a "case" that is worse than the one you're comparing to, then it is a worse-case scenario... you may be interested in finding "any" case that is worse than the nominal but not the absolute worst. If you run a scenario to specifically find the worst of all possible cases, then you run a worst-case. Remember, worse is relative to the case to which you are comparing and there can be many worse cases... worst is the most worse of all possible/known cases, thus it is treated as absolute since it is at the end of the spectrum of all possible cases.

The same arguements are true for best-case. If you run scenarios to find "better" cases, then you run better-case scenairios and to find the most-better you run a best-case scenario.

ZXZealot January 24, 2011, 7:34pm

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I disagree that all language evolution comes about through laziness. Some people just can't pronounce certain sounds, especially when they are before or after other sounds. This can be caused by dialects, accents, and even physical make-up. When that sort of person either raises children or holds a position of influence, the new "way" of speaking spreads. Anyway, for whomever started this thread - "Really?". The concept there in that statement is essentially asking, "what is the worst that could happen?" Therefore, what scenario is the worst? Worse means anything from slightly less positive than something to horrible, but not necessarily the "worst". In my opinion, language on something like this could potentially evolve due to ignorance of what you are saying, not laziness...

Admiral Burnsides April 11, 2011, 4:42pm

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I actually think worse-case is the better usage when describing all possible outcomes.
One could say "The worst-case scenario is that we don't meet sales projections"
But that can easily be topped by "Actually, the worst-case scenario is that we don't meet sales projections and we all get fired."
You can easily see how its not really possible to define a "worst-case" scenario from all possible outcomes as the list of negative effects can continue to grow.
Now if you are picking from a limited set of scenarios then I would agree that worst-case outcome is feasible.

Union fan September 23, 2011, 9:14am

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Hey Guys and Gals, I thought Worst was a German Sausage!!!

Sausage eating John March 1, 2012, 5:16pm

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Worse-Case-Scenario = is a win or lose situation but even if you lose, you still got an option to win after losing.
You boot up your PC, then a blue screen occurred, then PC can't recognize the hard drive. So, you removed the hard drive from its slot then put it back again. Now this is the worse case scenario, cause if the PC recognizes the hard drive, you win, but if not, you lose but you still got other options to win the situation, it's either you borrow or buy another hard drive, on that moment, you win.

Worst-Case-Scenario = is a win or lose situation, period. It has no secondary option if you win or lose, it is like, live or die.
A dam is about to overflow on a city and you are the only one who can stop it from happening. If you managed to stop it, you win, if not, millions will die. Now, this is a worst-case-scenario.

Mr.Lee May 13, 2012, 11:26pm

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(of a projected development) characterized by the worst of the possible foreseeable circumstances:
in the worst-case scenario, coastal resorts and communities face disaster

AnWulf May 14, 2012, 12:00pm

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Let's assume; you need to score at least an average of 55 points over 2 tests to pass for an exam. It was decided that no matter how bad you did, to applaud you even took the effort to sit down and take the exam your lowest possible score is always 10 points. Now you did your first test brilliantly (score of 100 points!), so you can say that for the second test even in the 'worst-case scenario' - in which you only get 10 points - you would still pass. In this case (of which there are more you can think of) there is a clear limit to how negative the scenario can be. For me, in a case like this you would not have to take into account that you might be run over by a bus on the way to the exam or that the school goes up in flames so you are not even in the opportunity to take the exam!

Lizzie August 2, 2012, 7:47am

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Worst case, we'll get arrested and put in jail.
What's the worst that can happen?
At worst, we'll have to find another job

Don Bates June 8, 2013, 3:55pm

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I meant to write:

Worst case, we'll get arrested and put in jail.
What's the worst that can happen?
At worst, we'll have to find another job.
In the worst-case scenario, the company gets sold to its long-time competitor.
Think of the parallel construction: good, better, best, i.e., bad, worse, worst.
When you use worst-case scenario, maybe you only need worst case.

Don Bates June 8, 2013, 4:01pm

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Does anyone ever say or write "Bes Case" instead of "Best Case"? Funny how the lazy tongue disappears when there is no actual word matching the phonetics of the truncated word. I always pronounce the 't' in best, but am equally guilty of not pronouncing it all the time so that it comes out sounding like 'worse case'. However, when writing it, I always write it as 'worst case'.

Rlopin May 1, 2014, 11:59am

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So, is it " all..." or "...y'all..."?

Thoughtless May 12, 2014, 10:05am

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@Thoughtless - I'll leave that one to a Southerner to answer, but for some Scots it's 'yous' - 'See yous all later, then'

Warsaw Will May 12, 2014, 3:37pm

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Yes     No