How To Use The Zero Conditional (With Examples) | English Grammar Lesson

Lesson summary

Understand English grammar like a native speaker! In today's lesson you will learn about the zero conditional.

Video transcript

If it rains, I take an umbrella. What does this mean? Past? Present? Future? Let’s find out. 

 

What’s up guys? My name is Shane and this is part 1 of this conditional series. Today we are talking about the zero conditional. 

 

What are conditionals?

But before we talk about the zero conditional, we need to talk about what conditionals are. 

 

Sometimes we call conditionals if clauses because they talk about something that didn’t happen in the past or something that might happen in the present or in the future. 

 

Conditionals normally have 2 parts. The first part is the if clause or the condition.  The second part is the consequence. Consequence means a result of an action. 

 

For example, this happens first and then because of this, this happens.  Something else happens.

 

There are four main types of conditionals.  The zero conditional. The second conditional. And the third conditional.  

 

Today we talk about the zero conditional. And make sure you watch until the end of the video because there will be a quiz to test your understanding.  Okay let’s get started.

 

Structure

Let’s look at our example from the intro.  If it rains, I take an umbrella.  If it rains, I take an umbrella.

 

What’s the structure here? How do we make this?

 

Well first, let’s break it in half.  It rains. It rains. What tense is this? It’s present simple. 

 

If you haven’t learned about present simple yet, you can watch this video right here first and then come back to watch this video about the zero conditional.

 

And what verb do we use with the present simple? We always use a present tense verb.  Run, eat, walk, drink. 

 

What about the second half? I take an umbrella. I take an umbrella.  This is also the present simple.

 

So when we a zero conditional sentence we need to have if plus present simple plus present simple. 

 

But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking Shane: I have seen some people say I take an umbrella if it rains.  Is this okay?  Yes it is. 

 

You can say I take an umbrella if it rains or if it rains, I take an umbrella.

 

But let’s have a look at the punctuation. If it rains, I take an umbrella. You see we have a comma after rains. But if you change it around to I take an umbrella if it rains, we don’t need a comma. 

 

So just remember if you have the if clause first, then you need a comma after the if clause but if the if clause is second, then you don’t need a comma after the first clause.

 

Also please not that you can say when it rains I take an umbrella. This is exactly the same as if it rains, I take an umbrella.  Both are correct, it’s just up to you what you want to say. 

 

You can also say I take an umbrella when it rains. I take an umbrella when it rains. Or I take an umbrella if it rains.  Both are correct. Its up to you. For me I normally say when.  When it rains, I take an umbrella.

 

And also, one more thing. Just be careful when you’re using the zero conditional, make sure you don’t say will. For example, if it rains, I will take an umbrella. This is not the zero conditional.  This is actually the first conditional which we will talk about in the next part of this series. 

 

Meaning

If it rains, I take an umbrella. Has this happened before in the past? Yes.

 

If it rains today, will I take an umbrella? Yes.

 

If it happens in the future, will I take an umbrella? Yes I will.

 

So why do you think we use the zero conditional? We use it to talk about facts, things that are always true. 

 

We use it when one thing happens and then it causes another thing to happen.

 

So for example, it rains and then, the rain makes me  take my umbrella.   The rain causes me to take my umbrella. Why? Because I don’t want to get wet.

 

Now, let’s look at another example. If you heat ice, it melts. If you heat ice, it melts.

 

Has this happened before in the past? Yes.

 

If you heat ice right now, will it melt? Yes.

 

If you heat ice in the future, will it melt? Yes. Because, remember, the zero conditional is used to talk about things that are true. Things that are always true and they do not change. It doesn’t matter when you heat ice it will still melt. Past, present, or future. 

 

Quiz

Now, we have learned about the zero conditional, how to make it and what it means but let’s have a quick quiz to test you’re understanding.  I will show you some words and I want you to make a zero conditional sentence. 

 

Number one. I happy, I smile. I happy, I smile.  And the correct sentence is: if I’m happy, I smile. If I’m happy, I smile.  Or you could say I smile if I’m happy. Both are correct. Both are right. But just remember if you have the if clause first, if I’m happy, I smile, we need a comma after the happy.

 

Number two. It cold, wear jacket. It cold, wear jacket.  The correct answer is: if it’s cold, I wear a jacket.  If it’s cold, I wear a jacket. Or I wear a jacket if it’s cold. Both are correct.

 

And the last question.  Rains, grass wet. Rains, grass wet.  And the correct answer is: if it rains, the grass is wet. If it rains, the grass is wet. Or the grass is wet if it rains. The grass is wet if it rains. This is true all of the time. Every time it rains, the grass is wet.

 

And for the last part of the quiz, I will show you some sentences and I want you to tell me: are these sentences zero conditional and why. 

 

The first sentence: if you write to me, I will reply.  If you write to me, I will reply.  This is not a zero conditional sentence because we have if plus present simple plus will. Remember, with the zero conditional we need to have if plus present simple plus present simple. We cannot have will and we cannot have a verb ing. We need to have a present simple verb.

 

Okay and the last question for today – if you freeze water, it turns to ice. If you freeze water, it turns to ice.  This is a zero conditional sentence.  Why? Because we’ve got if.  We’ve got present simple and we’ve got present simple. So this sentence means every time you freeze water, it turns to ice. It’s something that’s true and it’s something that will always be true.

 

So just remember, this is why we use zero conditional – to talk about things that are always true.

 

And this is the end of the lesson today.  If you want some further practice, you can write some zero conditional sentences down below and I will check them for you. And remember, if you haven’t watched this video on present simple, watch it now so you can really understand the meaning of present simple and when we use it. If you haven’t subscribed already, make sure you subscribe right now so you don’t miss any video that can help you understand English like a native speaker.  If you learned something today, please hit like and share this with your friends so they can understand how to use the zero conditional and what it means. And for more English, follow my Instagram for daily quizzes and for weekly posts and lessons.  And I will see you in the next video.  Question number 2. It cold.  We need to have … so when we make a present …

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