So far in our High English grammar quizzes on conditional sentences we have looked at three types – probable, hypothetical and impossible conditionals. We have examined these in relation to the subjects we have used in sentences. Is it possible to generalise and not impose conditions? Yes it is, and such conditionals are called zero conditionals.
Zero conditionals apply to general truths. In nature we have seen plants grow. What happens if they don’t get enough sunlight? The plants wither. We can express this general truth in the following manner:
‘If a plant does not get enough sunlight, it withers.’ Alternatively, we can express it like this:
‘A plant withers if it does not get enough sunlight.’ We can also use the word 'when' like so:
‘When a plant does not get enough sunlight, it withers.’
More often than not zero conditional sentences are used to express factual consequences of a condition, rather than probable, hypothetical or impossible conditions. As you would expect, there are rules of grammar governing the use of zero conditionals. The form that zero conditional sentences take is ‘If + Present Simple + Present Simple.’
Zero conditional sentences can be in the positive: "Ice melts if it is in the sun."
They can be in the negative: "Ice does not melt if it is not in the sun."
They can also be in the form of a question: "Does ice melt if it is in the sun?"
Zero conditionals can be categorised based on their uses. Here are some examples::
Rules - "Don’t drive if you drink."
General truths or scientific facts - "If you lower the temperature of water to zero degrees Celsius, it freezes."
Routine actions - "The umpire declares a four when the ball crosses the boundary."
Cause and effect - "If you turn the switch to the on position, the bulb lights up."
As we have seen from the examples given above, zero conditionals are useful when you want to make generalisations, when you want to communicate something factual or when something is applicable to a large number of people. Take the High English grammar quiz that follows and learn more about zero conditionals.