Hey there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast episode 32: Zero Conditional.

My name’s Ola and I teach English online to individual students.

This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, but above all today you’ll brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Please remember that this episode is transcribed and you can find the text on my website. Go there because you need to see the worksheet. It’ll help you to digest and test all the things covered in this episode. Go to teacherola.com/32. teacherola.com/32

Hello, welcome back, I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re motivated to devote some of your precious time and actually invest in yourself. Good decision. I’m excited you picked this podcast. Thank you for doing that.

Why did I choose zero conditional for the lesson? Well I’ve noticed it’s sometimes confusing for my students and I assume it’s confusing for other learners of English. I’m pretty sure it is because generally conditionals are tricky for all learners. I remember myself having a hard time with them. So don’t worry, you can fix this.

Grammar books very often omit this topic. They only describe the first, second and third conditional. So, here you’ll learn zero conditional in details.

Generally using conditionals is something you want to be able to do because conditionals allow you to make longer sentences. It’s a great way to speak more naturally and improve your confidence.

Let me tell you what’s the structure of today’s episode:

First, I’ll show you some example sentences, then we’ll talk about how zero conditional sentence is made. Next we’ll find out when you can use it. After that, we’ll jump into details, like: can we use present continuous? Can we add words like: ‘always’, ‘sometimes’? Can we use ‘unless’ in zero conditional? Can we use it to talk about past? Stay with me and learn all of it. Please wait for the last part, that is practice. I’ll give you a list of sentences with pauses for repeating. I always tell you how powerful it is to repeat sentences out loud. Don’t skip that part.

First of all, let’s have a look at two example sentences just to make it clear what zero conditional sentence sounds like.

If I go, you cry.

When it rains, it pours.

You might remember this idiom from the whole episode about weather idioms. I’ll link it in the show notes. One more example:

If you heat the water, it boils.

Classic school example. As you could hear we make a zero conditional sentence with two present simple verbs (one in the ‘if clause’ and one in the ‘main clause’), so it’s:

If + present simple, …. present simple.

If you heat the water, it boils.

In all conditional sentences, there are two clauses. The first states the condition and the other one tells us what happens or what will happen, what happened if the condition is or is not fulfilled.

Zero conditional deals with what happens in general. It’s always true. When A happens, B happens as a natural result, as a natural consequence of A. Use it to talk about habits, scientific facts, instructions and rules general truths.

If you put sugar in coffee, it’s sweet.

It’s always true, you can’t do much about this, it happens every single time you put sugar to coffee.

In general, notice that I’m not talking about a particular situation.

The word ‘If’ isn’t obligatory, you can easily exchange it to ‘when’ or ‘whenever’. For example:

When you heat ice, it melts.

You can also use ‘unless’ but you have to remember it already contains the negation. The example sentence:

You can’t drive a car unless you have a license.

You can’t drive a car if you don’t have a license.

Ok. I’ve just said that zero conditional is used for general, not for particular examples. Nevertheless, you can use it to talk about particular cases if they’re always true. An example:

When I eat pizza, I’m really thirsty.

It’s not true for everyone, it’s true for me, but it’s always true for me. There are no exceptions.

‘If’ clause doesn’t have to come first. The order isn’t fixed, and you can easily change it. For example:

If I get lost, I ask for help.


I ask for help if I get lost.

It doesn’t have to be present simple tense. It has to be present tense though. For example:

I never answer my phone when I’m cooking.

I always sit on the sofa when I’m reading.

Have you noticed I used the word ‘always’? This is because I can. And you can too use adverbs of frequency. So words like: always, sometimes, never, hardly ever.

Two more examples but this time with present perfect:

If you’ve never been to the Tatra mountains, you should go.

It’s easier to work if you have slept well.

Finally, I’ll make you feel confused. I left it till now because it’s a bit counter-intuitive.

You can use zero conditional to talk about past. Yes! It’s one of three ways that you can use to talk about past habits, routines and states. The other two ways? First is ‘used to’ the other one is ‘would’. Actually I made an episode about ‘used to’, you’ll see the link in the show notes. Coming back to conditionals, remember to use the past in both clauses. For example:

If I was late for work, I called a taxi.

If I didn’t finish my breakfast, I wasn’t allowed to eat sweets.

Let’s now move on to practice. It comes in two steps. The first step is going to happen right here right now. Wait for the second step. But now – repeating sentences. This is the first step to practice zero conditional. Let’s do it:

If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.

If you drink, don’t drive.

I stay home if I get sick.

When I’m in my car, I listen to podcasts.

Are you grumpy in the morning if you don’t sleep well?

If you don’t like my opinion, don’t ask me for it!

You should go to the doctor if you don’t feel well.

Well done, thank you for repeating all the examples. Now it’s time for the second step. Go to teacherola.com/32 and download the worksheet 32. In this sweet pdf file and you’ll find there two short exercises on zero conditional. It comes with an answer key.

If you think someone you know could benefit from this episode, do tell him or her about it.

Next episode is all about pronunciation, so we’ll be talking about mysterious ‘schwa’ sound. If you’re interested in improving your pronunciation come here next Wednesday.

Have a great week, happy learning, bye!