The Zero Conditional

Introduction to Zero Conditional

The Zero Conditional is a type of conditional sentence that is used to express facts, i.e., situations that are always true if something happens.

The Zero Conditional is often used to refer to general truths, such as scientific facts. In these sentences, the time is now or always and the situation is real and possible.

Structure of Zero Conditional

The structure of Zero Conditional sentences is fairly straightforward. Typically, Zero Conditional sentences follow this pattern: If + Present Simple + Present Simple. One of the clauses commences with 'if' (the condition, also known as 'if-clause'), and the other clause describes what happens following that condition (the result).

This structure can be inverted without altering the meaning, e.g., 'If it rains, the ground gets wet' can be rephrased as 'The ground gets wet if it rains'.

Zero Conditional Rules

Rule 1: Use of Present Simple Tense

Both clauses of a Zero Conditional sentence need to be in the Present Simple tense, regardless of whether the 'if' clause comes first or second in the sentence.

For example:

  • If I work late, I always get tired.
  • You get a discount if you show your membership card.

Rule 2: The word 'If' can be replaced by 'When'

The word 'if' can sometimes be substituted with 'when' without causing a change in meaning, because in the Zero Conditional, the result of the condition is always assumed to be true.

For example:

  • When I work late, I always get tired.
  • You get a discount when you show your membership card.

Uses of Zero Conditional

Use 1: General Truths

The Zero Conditional is frequently used to delineate universal or general truths or laws of nature.

For example:

  • If you heat ice, it melts.
  • If plants get sunlight, they grow.

Use 2: Instructions or Directions

The Zero Conditional is also effectively employed when providing directions or instructions.

For example:

  • If Helen comes, tell her I'll be back in 10 minutes.
  • If you see John, ask him to call me.

Common Mistakes with Zero Conditional

It is vital to remember the correct use of tense when utilizing the Zero Conditional. Since both parts of the sentence are in present tense, it can be relatively easy to mistakenly use another tense.


  • If you will study hard, you will pass the test.


  • If you study hard, you pass the test.

Practice Exercises on Zero Conditional

To better understand the concept and application of the Zero Conditional, here are a few exercises:

  1. Form a Zero Conditional sentence: __________ if I don't eat breakfast. (I feel hungry)
  2. Complete the Zero Conditional sentence: If it's cold, ______________________. (I wear a jacket)
  3. Correct the Zero Conditional sentence: If you wait here, she will pick you up.


Mastering the Zero Conditional will enable you to express yourself more accurately in various situations, including expressing general truths and giving instructions. As with any other grammar topic, practicing through writing and conversation will help to solidify your understanding and usage of the Zero Conditional.

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