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Zero Conditional Sentences

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We live in a world of possibilities that happen if certain conditions are met. The word “if” is key here, because if they are not fulfilled, the result will be different.

Conditional sentences are used to show this dependence of an effect on a cause. There are 5 types of conditional sentences depending on the correlation of the event with reality:

  • Zero conditionals
  • First conditionals
  • Second conditionals
  • Third conditionals
  • Mixed conditionals

The zero conditional is the simplest of these, both in terms of grammar and the meaning conveyed. But in order not to be mistaken in its use, Grade.ua will tell you the nuances of its meaning.

What Does Zero Conditionals Mean?

To understand the difference between zero and other conditional sentences, we need to add the concept of “verified truth.”

It means that this cause-and-effect relationship has been confirmed by numerous observations. In science, they are called laws and allow scientists to accurately predict future events, for example:

  • If you add vinegar to baking soda, the mixture begins to foam.
  • If you strengthen the shore with stones, the waves do not destroy the soil.

But zero conditional time applies not only to the laws of nature but to any regularities that you observe in life. For example, by observing your behavior, you can come to the following conclusions:

  • If I get up early, I feel more energetic.
  • If I write something down before the exam, I remember it better.

Thus, any regularity in nature, social, or personal life must be expressed using zero conditional.

Structural Parts of the Zero Conditional Sentence

Conditional sentences differ from other types of sentences by the presence of two obligatory structural parts, connected by the conjunction “if” or “when:”

  • If-clause states the condition or cause of an event.
  • The main clause shows the result that we can observe if the condition is fulfilled.

For example:

  • If the sea is stormy, the fish seeks safe shelter away from the shore. This means that in the absence of a storm, the results will be different, and you will be able to have great fishing.
  • You observe the entire coastline if you sail further away. If you do not dare to sail further from the shore, the result will be different — you will only be able to see a small beach.

From these examples, you can see that if-clause can either begin or end a sentence. There is no semantic difference in rearranging the order of clauses, but there is one punctuation difference:

  • If a clause begins with an if-clause, it is separated by a comma.
  • If the if-clause ends the sentence, there is no comma.

Features of Using Conjunctions If/When

You can use not only the conjunction “if” but also “when.” Usually, the second option is preferable if you are 100% sure that the result will be exactly like this, for example:

  • When it rains, I feel sad.
  • When inflation outpaces wage growth, people go to protests.

How to Construct Zero Conditional Sentences

The scheme for constructing zero conditional sentences is very simple and can take 2 forms:

  • If/when + condition (present simple), consequence (present simple).
  • Consequence (present simple) + if/when + condition (present simple).

For example:

  • When spring comes, the cranes return.
  • Cranes return when spring comes.
  • If it gets hot, birds fly further into the forest.
  • Birds fly further into the forest if it gets hot.

In addition to the simple present tense, you can choose other forms of the simple tense:

  • Present Continuous
  • Present Perfect
  • Present Perfect Continuous

Features of Using Zero Conditional Sentences

The zero conditional is often used when writing instructions because it communicates some imperatives or what is about to happen. For example:

  • If you want to go on a tour, make a reservation in advance.
  • If a storm begins, roll up the portholes and remain in your cabin until further notice.
  • If the battery level reaches a critical level, switch your phone to power-saving mode.

The zero conditional is considered a very simple type of sentence because it has no past or future tense — only the present simple.

It reflects some generally accepted truth, fact, habit, or observation. Use it in any situation when you want to communicate some undoubted cause-and-effect relationship.

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