When we want to talk about a possible or imaginary situation (a condition) and the
consequences of it (the result), we can use a structure called 'the zero conditional'. In
this structure we're talking about every time a particular condition happens, the result is
always the same.
In our example, every time someone sends Kate an email, she writes back immediately.
So the condition (that's the 'if' part) is that someone emails her and the result (what
happens) is that she always writes a reply at once. Listen again:
Neil: If someone emails her, she replies straight away.
Every time she doesn't answer the phone, her phone machine takes a message for her.
Here the condition is that she isn't in her office, and the result is that her machine always
takes a message. Listen again:
Neil : If she doesn’t answer, the machine takes a message.
We make the zero conditional with 'If' followed by a present simple verb,
Neil: If someone emails her,
followed by another verb in the present simple.
Neil: she replies straight away.
In the zero conditional examples we heard today, we've used 'if' but you can also use
'when' and it has exactly the same meaning.
BBC Learning English
Grammar Challenge © BBC Learning English
Page 2 of 2
© British Neil: When someone emails her, she replies straight away. Broadcasting Corporation 2007
So, to recap then: when we want to talk about a possible situation (where something
might or might not happen) and the consequences of it (what will always happen as a
result), we use 'the zero conditional'.
And we make it with 'If' or 'When' followed by the present simple, followed by another
present simple verb.
That's all from me, good luck with your grammar challenge!
Find out more
Conditional sentences are usually made up of two parts, a conditional clause and a main
clause. The conditional clause is the 'if' part of the sentence and the main clause is the
result, what happens.
There are other ways of forming a zero conditional sentence but this is the basic
structure we talk about in this programme.
CONDITIONAL CLAUSE MAIN CLAUSE
If / when present simple present simple
you heat ice,
she's not in,
you don't water plants,
her machine takes a message.
The two clauses can come in any order. In written English if the conditional clause comes
first, you put a comma between it and the main clause. You don't use a comma if the
main clause comes first.
Note that the sentences above contain two examples of the zero conditional!