“If” Part 1 – Zero Conditional

In English there are many times we use the word “if”. These sentences are called “conditionals”.

There are four types:

  1. Zero Conditional

“If I drink too much coffee I can’t sleep”

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  1. First Conditional

“If I drop my phone it will break”

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  1. Second Conditional

“If I won the lottery, I would buy a car.”

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  1. Third Conditional

“If I hadn’t drunk so much last night I wouldn’t have had a hangover this morning.”

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All of these sentences have two parts. There is the conditional (the “if” part) and the result.

The order doesn’t matter.

“If I drop my phone it will break” is the same as “My phone will break if I drop it.”

All of these conditionals have different meanings. We will look at them one by one

Zero Conditional – Facts

“If I drink too much coffee I can’t sleep”

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In this sentence we have the condition “If I drink too much coffee” then we have the result “I can’t sleep.”

The condition is in present tense. The result is in present tense.

In English we use present tense for things that are always true (“I am Canadian”) or things that happen again and again regularly (I exercise everyday).

Zero conditional sentences aren’t really conditionals. They are basically just facts. You don’t even need to use the word “if”. You can replace it with “when”, “whenever” or “every time”.

If I watch that movie I cry.

When I watch that movie I cry.

Every time I watch that movie I cry.

We use this grammar when we have experienced something in the past and it was true, so we think that it will be true always. You are not talking about the future, or a plan, you are just stating a fact.


Next time: First Conditional

Gerunds and infinitives.

In English we have ways of making verbs act like a noun, we can use the gerund or the infinitive.


“run”, “swim” and “think” are verbs.

“running”, “swimming” and “thinking” are gerunds.

to run”, “to swim”, and “to think” are infinitives.


We usually use gerunds for sentences about real things and actions.



“I went running yesterday” the action of running


“Swimming is so difficult” the action of swimming


“I stopped thinking about her” the action of thinking.

We use infinitives more for abstract ideas, or future actions. Things that aren’t real, or aren’t real yet.



“I want to run in a marathon.” a desire, not a real action yet.


“I plan to swim the entire lake” a plan, not a real action yet.


“The purpose is to think hard about your answer.” purpose is an abstract idea.

Sometimes though, when talking about preferences, both gerunds and infinitives work fine.


“I like swimming.” The action of swimming.

“I like to swim.” The concept of swimming.

Both sentences have the same meaning.

So for preferences, such as “Like”, “Love”, “Hate” and “Prefer” feel free to use either one.