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IELTS Grammar | General: Zero Conditional

There are some grammar structures that will gain you a higher score IF (and this is an important "if") you use them accurately, appropriately, and with confidence.

Today, we'll take a look at the simple yet incredibly effective "zero conditionals."

BUT FIRST, A NOTE: Learning and using new structures will take time, so please don't be hard on yourself. Enjoy the ride as much as possible.


Many students tense up the minute conditionals come up in class. It's reasonable because it's not the easiest structure to learn and apply in conversations, let alone oral exams like the IELTS.

In later posts, we will cover the other three conditionals. For now, let's focus on the zero conditional, which is not used often enough but it's such a good complex structure to use in the IELTS speaking (and in everyday conversations!). It can definitely bump up your band score if used correctly.

First, how do you make a zero conditional?

There are 2 clauses, the "if" clause and the main clause. Both must be in the present tense:

[if/when + present simple] + [present simple]

Next, when should you use the zero conditional?

In general, you use it when the result is always true. BUT it can also be used when the result is usually true. For example, you can use it when:

  • you are telling someone something that is generally true for you or someone.

    • If I am hungry, I cannot focus.

    • When I visit a new city, I like to go to the museums.

    • When my boss gets upset, he cancels all his appointments for the day.

  • you want to give instructions.

    • If you get stuck, please let a teacher know.

    • If you have any questions, ask me.

    • When you have any doubts, clear them up as soon as possible.

    • like this - The teacher told me, "If it rains, close the windows."

  • you are describing a general fact.

    • When it gets too cold, the river freezes.

    • If you heat ice, it melts.

    • When summer starts, the temperature rises.

These are the three common uses of the zero conditional. However, during the IELTS exam, you are likely to use the first and second examples because you can use them to talk about yourself, people you know, and even recount past events (like so, The teacher told me, "If it rains, close the windows.")

Lastly, how can you use it in the IELTS speaking test?

You are likely to use it in Part One and Part Two of the speaking test because you can share your experiences and opinions.

Examples of Part One Questions & Answers

  1. Do you like wearing jeans? Not really I prefer skirts. But if the weather is very cold, I wear jeans.

  2. Do you like tea or coffee? I drink coffee twice a day, so I definitely like it more than tea. Sometimes, when I run out of coffee, I drink tea.

  3. What is the oldest place in your hometown? If I remember correctly, it's the Town Hall building.

  4. Do you enjoy your birthdays? If I'm honest, I don't like my birthday. It just reminds me that I am getting older.

  5. Do you prefer desktops or laptops? When I am at work, I prefer desktops - they are much more comfortable for my eyes. If I'm at home, I like laptops cause I can use them on the couch, kitchen, bedroom, you get it.

Examples of Part Two Questions & Answers

  1. Describe a piece of advice you received. Who gave you the advice? It was my brother. If my brother tells me something, it is usually true...

  2. Describe an exercise that you know. When I do this exercise, my muscles get sore.

  3. Describe a vocation you think is useful to society. I think most vocations are important. If I have to rank them, I think teaching has the most positive impact.

  4. Describe your favourite shop. There's a boutique in my hometown that I adore. When I visit my family during winter breaks, I always make sure to go there at least once.

  5. Describe someone you respect. There are so many admirable people in my life. If I have to pick one, it has to be my old boss.

And there you have it! It takes practice to create longer sentences using the zero conditionals, but don't give up. Start short, then continue expanding it. You can do this!

Leave your questions and sentences in the comment section below.


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