I know the conditionals but I have doubts regarding the use of probable conditional for universal truths. and the conversion of them into indirect speech I have referred to Michael Swan's and Raymond Murphy's and Wren and Martin's grammar books and searched on the Google too. All of them say that If you heat ice, it melts and If you heat ice, it will melt are correct but they differ slightly in meaning.

I think the conditional under discussion is different from a sentence like:

If you plant a tree , it will grow.

because if you plant a tree, it may not grow, it may die. It does not come under universal truth, I think. But:

If you heat ice, it melts.

It is a scientific fact.

So I think:

If you heat ice, it melts.

is preferable to:

If you heat ice, it will melt.

I would like your responses on this topic.

I found more on this topic here:

  • 4
    If the ice is at -25°c and you heat it to -10°c, it will not melt. You have to heat it to above its melting temperature. The same is true for butter and for iron... And context does matter, because some contexts call for a generic statement (even if it is not always true) and others require a true conditional sentence. Aug 26, 2019 at 17:26
  • What you say is an exceptional one. scientists and students of science prefer the 0 condition Aug 26, 2019 at 17:35
  • So, is it on the context of scientist and student discussions? Aug 26, 2019 at 17:47
  • 1
    I'm sure there's some authority for which one is "more correct" in any given situation, but I can tell you as a native English speaker, nobody will ever care which one you use in most cases. If you were giving e.g. a list of examples of facts, you would want to use whichever form was parallel with your other examples. There's even a third option you left out, which is the conditional: "If you heated that ice, it would melt." Aug 26, 2019 at 19:02
  • 1
    If you heat ice, it's possible it won't melt either. (It could be snatched away and thrown into a freezer after only a second.) Saying that a tree may not grow is a conceivably more likely negative outcome, but if you're going to come up with a thought experiment for one, the same could be done for the other. In terms of grammar, the two are equivalent. Aug 27, 2019 at 1:07

1 Answer 1


So I think if you heat, it melts

is preferable to if you heat ice, it will melt

if you heat, it melts is the conditional because heating ice may melt it or may not. It depends if melting temperature is reached. Therefore if you heat, it melts is not a a scientific fact

if you heat ice, it will melt is a true statement. In this case the modal verb will means able to

will modal verb (ABLE/WILLING) C.E.Dictionary ​ A1 (also 'll) used to talk about what someone or something is able or willing to do:

Now to move onto your Trees

If you plant a tree , it will grow. is a conditional statement where as If you heat ice it will melt is a statement of fact. The growth of a tree is conditional on many factors. Whist the melting of ice is only affected by if it is heated or not."

So in the example of ice the same as the tree we have situations that may or may not come under universal truth. Unfortunately the choice of examples is confusing as will has been used in both whilst the logic is reversed.

If you plant a tree , it will grow

not a universal truth, The growth of a tree is conditional on many factors not just planting. Therefore this statement is not a fact. Yes the tree can grow but it is not a certainty.

if you heat ice, it will melt

Is a universal truth, the melting will happen when enough heat been applied. Because the statement applies its own conditions, it then makes this statement a fact.

if you heat ice, it melts

not a universal truth, in this case melting is conditional on enough heat being applied and melting point being reached. If these conditions are not met then it will not melt. Therefore the statement is not a fact.

  • 1
    I agree with the "not s scientific fact" part, but "it will melt" does not mean "is able to melt". "Will" is used in a conditional statement to describe the realistic outcome when the condition is true. It is not about ability. Aug 26, 2019 at 15:25
  • will is not in the conditional, will is a true statement. If you heat ice it will melt is true. think of it another way If you heat ice it can melt is a true statement. If you heat ice it melts is not true it is conditional on the fact that melting point is achieved. It melts if melting point is reached it does not melt if melting point is not reached.
    – Brad
    Aug 26, 2019 at 15:32
  • 1
    You forgot the "ice" in the first line
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 26, 2019 at 21:57
  • @Mari-Lou A Thank you for the comment. I had done it intentionally. However, the relevance maybe lost. The sentiment it melts can apply to anything (including ice) it is a relative clause because it is subjective; related to how much heat is applied and how long. Never the less the sentiment it melts can apply to anything. Where as the statement if you heat ice, it will melt is not only specific but factual. Which visa versa if it is factual it must be specific.
    – Brad
    Aug 27, 2019 at 0:55
  • 1
    @Brad They are both conditional. It's just the the prevention of the melting of ice is far less contingent on everyday circumstances. But there are still some things that could prevent the ice from melting. That they are unlikely scenarios doesn't make the grammar itself any different. If that were the case, the nature of the English language would be quite different than it is. (We'd be doing crazy things like only using certain conjugations with verbs in situations that were likely to occur, and so on.) Conditional statements remain syntactically conditional regardless of likelihood. Aug 27, 2019 at 5:46

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