We use the so-called zero conditional when the result of the condition is always true.

What about following situation. Let's say that we have a poorly written application. :) and I complain that it simply does not work. It is always true for this version of application. Zero conditional sounds good to me. Is it wrong to use first conditional here?

  • "if I press a button it crashes."
  • "if I press a button it will crash."


  • Are "zero conditional" and "first conditional" perhaps terms from ESL?
    – GEdgar
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 14:02
  • I have no idea. I was thinking that they are common and well known.
    – user51702
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 14:17
  • 2
    No, they are known almost exclusively to teachers and learners of English as a second or foreign language. Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 14:21
  • It does not really matter, does it? The question is what would be better to use in the case I described above.
    – user51702
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 14:29
  • “It is clear that a division of conditionals into the zero, first, second, and third categories does not adequately reflect actual usage.” —from “If only it were true: the problem with the four conditionals”, Christian Jones and Daniel Waller, ELT Journal 65:1 pp 24–32 (2011), Oxford University Press, doi: 10.1093/elt/ccp101.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


The zero, or present, conditional, using the present tense in both clauses, means, in the words of ‘An A-Z of English Grammar’ by Leech and others, that ‘the condition can be true at any time’. In the case of the example, whenever I press a button, assuming I do, it crashes. In practice, it suggests that the speaker has indeed pressed a button on at least one occasion.

In the first conditional, the main clause envisages the likely result if the condition is fulfilled. In the example, I may or may not press a button, but pressing the button will certainly result in a crash. There is no indication in the sentence that the speaker has yet pressed a button.

  • I hope it helps. Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 15:10

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