So far, we have discussed both the zero and the first conditional and explained the concept with several examples. So, the question that arises here is how the zero and first conditional are different from each other, and why do we choose one over another? To explain the difference, let’s take some examples.
Zero Conditional: If pour oil on the water, it floats.
First Conditional: If pour oil on the water, it will float.
In this example, both these sentences are correct. But it does change the meaning a little by choosing the zero or the first conditional. The difference between these two sentences is that the first sentence states a general fact, i.e., the situation described in the first sentence is true at any moment and anywhere.
When we use the first conditional for the same situation, we tell someone about a possible result based on the current situation. So, it’s like we are giving advice or warn someone about the present situation.
Zero Conditional: When the sun sets, it gets dark.
First Conditional: When the sun sets, it will get dark.
We are again using the zero conditional to describe a general fact. It is true everywhere when the sun sets; it gets darker.
But when we are using the first conditional, we remind someone about the situation that it will get dark in a few hours. So, the person needs to take a light with himself, or you are warned to return soon before it gets darker.
Zero Conditional: If he doesn’t come, I’m angry.
First Conditional: If he doesn’t come, I’ll be angry.
Suppose these two sentences describe my friend routine who always come to my home and we study together.
We have used the zero conditional in the first sentence because it describes the situation that happens to me a lot. He often doesn’t come, and every time I am angry.
In the second case, the first conditional is used because I am talking about a specific day on which he doesn’t come. So, I am not talking about his general habit. I don’t always angry with him, but I’m talking about it right now at this moment.
In simple words, the zero conditional always describes a general truth, and the first conditional describes a warning or remind someone about a specific situation.