English Corner – Zero and First Conditionals

These are the first two types of conditionals to be aware of when it comes to studying this particular grammar topic of conditionals. The ‘zero’ conditional is formed when it comes to discussing general truths and things that can happen under certain circumstances. It’s important to know how to form the ‘zero’ conditional, and how to create sentences using it.

The second type of conditional to study is the ‘first’ conditional and is used for discussing possibilities that can occur in the present or in the future. I will be writing about the first conditional and how its’ made along with its’ usage in English grammar. The ‘zero’ and ‘first’ conditionals are the most frequently used and it’s important to be aware of how to use them and when to use them in sentences.

When you form a ‘zero’ conditional sentence, there are two parts or clauses to it that make it a complete sentence. The first clause in the sentence is the ‘if’ clause and the second clause is the main clause that completes the sentence. The ‘if’ clause usually begins at the beginning of the sentence followed by the main clause. It’s important to note that you don’t need to begin the ‘if’ clause with if but rather use ‘when’ instead to start the sentence.

Here are some examples of how to form and put the zero conditional into action:

Example:

If you cool water to 0 degrees Celsius, it freezes.

When you use the ‘if’ clause first, you’re going to have to put a comma there before using the main clause which in this case is ‘it freezes.’

However, if you were to put the ‘if’ clause second in the sentence, you don’t need to use a comma at all to connect the sentence’s clauses together.

Example:

Water freezes if you cool water to 0 degrees Celsius.

When it comes to the grammatical basis for an ‘if clause’ sentence, you’re going to want to follow this formula of formation.

‘if clause’ – ‘if’ + subject + simple present verb = complete sentence

‘main clause’ – subject + simple present verb = complete sentence

Now that you know how to form the ‘zero’ conditional, it’s important to see some other examples in order to get a better sense of how this particular conditional is used.

Examples:

  • If you heat the snow, it melts.
  • If it rains a lot, the flowers get wet.
  • Forest fires don’t start if there is no drought.
  • If you cross time zones, the time changes.

When it comes to the first conditional, you have to make sure to follow a similar formula to the zero conditional but with keeping a few differences in mind. The first conditional or conditional type 1 is used for talking about current possibilities or those that are possible to happen in the near future. Similar to the zero conditional, the first conditional has a basic structure that should be memorized.

A first conditional sentence has two clauses which consist of the ‘if’ clause and the main clause. Instead of simply addressing the simple present tense as the zero conditional does, the first conditional can reference the future with the simple future tense in its’ sentences. The ‘if’ clause can either come first or second in the structure of a first conditional sentence; it’s really up to your personal preference as the learner. You can have the main clause go first instead or have it come second after the ‘if’ clause. The most important thing to remember is that the first conditional must address the future primarily and not the present as the zero conditional does.

Here below are a few examples of the first conditional in action:

Example:

  • If you do your homework, you will pass the class.

The ‘if’ clause goes first in this sentence followed by the main clause and the use of the future simple tense with ‘will.’

Example:

  • You will catch the train if you run fast.

In this first conditional sentence, the main clause goes before the ‘if’ clause, and there is also no comma used because of this change in the sentence structure. You should notice that ‘will’ and the simple future tense is still being used regardless of which clause is used first or second.

Example:

  • I will dance Salsa if I hear the music.

For this particular example, you should note that there are two different verbs being used for their respective clauses. ‘Dance’ comes with the main clause while ‘hear’ goes with the ‘if’ clause for the second part of the sentence. Since the sentence begins with the main clause, you don’t need the comma to make a complete sentence.

Now that you know how to form the ‘first’ conditional, it’s important to see some other examples in order to get a better sense of how this particular conditional is used.

Examples:

  • If you drop the glass, it will break.
  • If the airplane is full, I will leave.
  • We will not go to the movies if the tickets cost $12 each.
  • They will not leave Disneyland if they do not get a refund.

Conditionals are a popular English grammar topic and it’s important to know how and when to use them with your sentence. The zero and first conditionals are only the first two types of conditionals that can be used in English. For the next ‘English Corner’ blog post, I will be focusing on the other types of conditionals that are sure to come up in your English grammar studies. Study the examples above and you should start seeing some progress with this particular grammar topic!

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