The Zero Conditional in English Grammar with Examples

The Zero Conditional

Using the zero conditional English grammar tense is a good way to improve your English, make longer sentences, and speak more like a native.

How do you form the zero conditional tense in English?

It requires us to construct a sentence in two parts.

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

  • If / when + present simple base verb, …. present simple base verb.

You can also think of it this way:

— IF this, THEN that.

This tense is used when the result will generally always happen. So, if water reaches 100 degrees, it always boils. It’s a fact. The result of the ‘if clause’ is always the main clause.

However, we can create sentences in either order:

— If + present simple, … present simple OR

— Present simple… if + present simple.

Notice in the second example, we don’t need a comma to separate the two parts of the sentence but in the first one we do.

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 drink milk, I feel very sick. (This is true only for me, maybe, not for everyone, but it’s still true that I’m sick every time I drink milk).

Also, here are some more examples of the zero conditional English grammar tense:

If you eat too much, you gain weight.
If you go swimming, you get wet.
If ice melts, it becomes water.

To further your studies, see this English tip 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 conditional tense is talking in general.

Read about the second conditional tense here.

Learn about “if I had been you” vs. “If I were you”

Can you think of your own example using the zero conditional? Leave your sentence in the comments!

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