The Zero Conditional

By | April 13, 2019

The Zero Conditional

The Zero Conditional

The Zero Conditional

The zero conditional is used to describe something that is always true. The two parts that make up the zero conditional sentence have the same tense: simple present.

if + present simple (conditional clause)  Present simple (main clause)
If I mix yellow with blue,  I get green.
If you draw back the curtains,       you let the sunlight in.

The positions of the two clauses above are not fixed. In other words, they can change places.

present simpleif + present simple
I get green  if I mix yellow with blue.
You let the sunlight inif you draw back the curtains.

 When/whenever can be used instead of if.


If/When I mix yellow with blue, I get green.   

We can use the past simple instead of the present simple as above. The past simple must be used in both clauses.

  • If he called her, she always said she was busy.
  • If I bet on a horse, the horse often came last.

We can make a zero conditional sentence with two present simple verbs (one in the ‘if clause’ and one in the ‘main clause’):

If + present simple, …. present simple.

This conditional is used when the result will always happen. So, if water reaches 100 degrees, it always boils. It’s a fact. I’m talking in general, not about one particular situation. The result of the ‘if clause’ is always the main clause .

The ‘if’ in this conditional can usually be replaced by ‘when’ without changing the meaning.

For example: If water reaches 100 degrees, it boils. (It is always true, there can’t be a different result sometimes). If I eat peanuts, I am sick. (This is true only for me, maybe, not for everyone, but it’s still true that I’m sick every time I eat peanuts)

Here are some more examples:

  • If people eat too much, they get fat.
  • If you touch a fire, you get burned.
  • People die if they don’t eat.
  • You get water if you mix hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Snakes bite if they are scared
  • If babies are hungry, they cry

See this page about the first conditional to learn about the difference between the first and the zero conditionals. The first conditional is about a specific situation, but the zero is talking in general