if-clause type 0 (zero conditional)

(Explanation of the conditional sentence type 0 in English)

Table of contents – zero conditional sentence

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the zero conditional sentence
  2. Form of the zero conditional sentence
  3. Further explanations and exercises

When is the zero conditional sentence (if-clause type 0) used?

In general, we use conditional sentences for ideas or situations that depend on another. Accordingly, they are linked to a condition in which four types of conditional sentences are differentiated depending on probability or possibility. If something is always true under certain circumstances, the zero conditional sentence or if-clause type 0 is utilised in particular. Compare:

  1. This type of conditional sentence is suitable for things that happen every time the associated condition is met, which means in the same situations. Therefore, such things are facts. Some examples of the use of the zero conditional:
    • If you start the engine, you hear that strange sound.”
    • If you drink a glass of milk before you go to bed, you sleep well.”
  2. In some instances, ‘if’ can be replaced by ‘when’ or ‘whenever’:
    • “You call this number whenever you have a problem.”
    • When he goes on a trip, he always takes a lot of pictures.”

How is the zero conditional sentence (if-clause type 0) formed?

Fundamentally, a conditional sentence always consists of two clauses. One of them (the subordinate clause) usually starts with the word ‘if’ (or as mentioned above, with ‘when’ or ‘whenever’) and specifies the condition while the other one (the main clause) returns the result. It does not matter which of the two clauses begins the complex sentence; however, in case ‘if’ is at the beginning, a comma needs to be placed between both for separation. Note the following:

Rule for forming the zero conditional sentence

As this type refers neither to the future nor to the past, the simple present tense is used:

if’ (when/whenever) + present simple, clause with present simple

Additional examples

Mind the position of the clauses:

  • If you press that button, the fuse blows.”
    • Here, a comma is required as the if-part starts the complex sentence.
  • “The fuse blows if you press that button.”
    • No comma is needed here as ‘if’ appears in the second part of the sentence.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Zero conditional sentence (if-clause type 0)’

The following additional explanations are related to the topic ‘Use of the zero conditional (if-clause type 0)’ and may also be interesting for you: