Zero Conditional

We use the Zero Conditional to talk about general truths and things that always happen. This type of conditional is easy because you don’t have to remember which clause goes where. All you have to remember is that we use the Present Simple to talk about general truths, facts, habits, and daily routines.

Form

Conditional Clause

Main Clause

If

+

Present Simple,

+

Present Simple


If you heat ice, it melts.

If you heat ice, = the conditional clause

it melts. = the main clause

If you drink, never drive.

If you’re sick, take the day off.

If I’m lost in a new place, I ask for directions.

If I’m not sure about something, I ask my husband’s opinion.


It is also possible to invert the sentence by putting the main clause before the conditional clause. We do this to add variety to our speech and also when we want to emphasise a certain part of the sentence.

So, we can also use the following structure:

Main Clause

Conditional Clause

Present Simple

+

If

+

Present Simple.


*NOTE: When the main clause comes before the conditional clause, we do not use a comma before the conditional clause.

Ice melts if you heat it.

Never drive if you drink.

Take the day off if you’re sick.

I ask for directions if I’m lost in a new place.

I ask my husband’s opinion if I’m not sure about something.


We can use unless instead of if not.

If you don’t have a ticket, you can’t enter.

Unless you have a ticket, you can’t enter.


We can also use Imperatives in zero conditional sentences.

If my door is closed, don’t disturb me.

If you’re hungry, buy something to eat.


The word if can be substituted with when in zero conditional situations without changing the meaning.

If the sun goes down, it gets dark.

When the sun goes down, it gets dark.


We can use modal verbs in the main clause.

-use might / may / could to show probability or uncertainty.

If you play the lottery, you might win.

-use can(n’t) / be able to to talk about ability or permission.

You can’t drive if you don’t have a license.

-use should when you want to talk about something that is advisable or probable.

If you want to lose weight, you should do more exercise.


* NOTE: It is also possible to use the Present Continuous in the if clause when an action is in progress.

My dog always lays on my lap when I'm watching TV.

When I'm exercising, I listen to my MP3 player.