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From what I know, if we are talking about a rule, zero conditional should be used. Therefore, proverbs using "if" should use zero conditional (http://www.1-language.com/englishcoursenew/unit40_grammar_exs.htm).

However, I've come across some proverbs that use the first conditional:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

If you play with fire, you’ll get burned.

Any idea why?

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    Why choose any word or phrase over another? Both sentences in the question are grammatical, understandable, and normal. – Jason Bassford Jul 15 at 19:04
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Your linked article contains this statement:

"The zero conditional (using If you can't...) is often found in old sayings and proverbs."

This is true, it often is, but that doesn't mean it always is. Proverbs are defined as "stating a general truth or piece of advice". Advice isn't the same as an inescapable fact, which a zero conditional statement usually conveys, so don't expect all proverbs to follow that format.

Regarding your specific example - although conditional statements tend to use "if" or "when", there are lots of other ways of phrasing such a statement either omitting or replacing "if". For example:

  • Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
  • If you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.
  • When you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.
  • As long as you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.
  • Provided that you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.

These all mean the same thing - that if condition [x] is true, it follows that [y] is true.

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    Also, "zero conditional" uses simple present tense. All of those use future tense for the consequent. – Jack O'Flaherty Jul 15 at 10:07

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