Zero Conditional

When we talk about things that are generally or always true, we can use:

If/When/Unless plus a present form PLUS present simple or imperative

  • If he gets there before me, ask him to wait.
  • When you fly budget airline, you have to pay for your drinks and snacks. 
  • Unless you need more space, a small car is big enough for one person.

Note that we are not talking about a specific event but something which is generally true. 

In the condition clause, we can use a variety of present forms. In the result clause, there can only be the present simple or imperative.

  • If you visit London, go on the London Eye.
  • If unemployment is rising, people tend to stay in their present jobs.
  • If you’ve done that, go and have a coffee.
  • When you go on holiday, take plenty of sun cream. It’ll be very hot. 
  • When I’m concentrating, please don’t make so much noise.
  • When I’ve finished an article, I always ask Kate to read it through.

Notice that ‘unless’ means the same as ‘if not’.

  • Unless he asks you politely, refuse to do any more work on the project.
  • Unless prices are rising, it’s not a good investment.
  • Unless you’ve been there yourself, you don’t really understand how fantastic it is.