Hey! Do not touch the car. The alarm (go off) ______ if you touch it.

Can both “zeroth conditional” and ”first conditional” be accepted in this context?

Regarding their usage, zero type refers to a condition which is always true while first type refers to probable present or future.

In this example, is it grammatically correct to use both to give warning about the car?

  • 2
    A relevant comment from Peter Shore: Related: "Watch out! It's going to bite!" means "take your fingers out of that cage immediately if you don't want teeth marks on them." "Watch out! It will bite!" means "be careful not to annoy it when you're handling it, or it will try to bite you". Where It bites! is closer to It will bite! than it is to It's going to bite! Nov 23, 2021 at 13:44
  • 2
    Can you please write out explicitly what you think the sentences with 'zero' and 'first' conditionals will look like?
    – Mitch
    Nov 23, 2021 at 18:32
  • 2
    Didn't you mean to post to post this on our sister site for English Language Learners? It does no good to ask native speakers or linguists about numbered conditionals because there is no such thing. Native speakers are never taught this dangerously misleading and incorrect EFL crutch, and they are even more useless for linguists who already know better.
    – tchrist
    Nov 23, 2021 at 19:25
  • 1
    @tchrist - " It does no good to ask native speakers or linguists about numbered conditionals because there is no such thing." I studied English at university, and do not consider myself ignorant, but I never heard about them until I came on here. Nov 23, 2021 at 20:16
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey Exactly. Me, too. It's some sort of EFL shortcut model not used when teaching us native speakers, least of all at university level, not even in linguistics classes. If you look at the Linked question, you'll see that they've discovered that a huge proportion of the forms that native speakers actually use lie completely outside this peculiar EFL model. It's a bad problem.
    – tchrist
    Nov 24, 2021 at 3:16

1 Answer 1


Yes, either is valid, with subtle different implications.

"The alarm will go off if you touch it" is more of a warning that about your behaviour in particular. In this instance 'You' is the singular pronoun.

"The alarm goes off if you touch it" is more a general statement of a characteristic of the car. The 'You' here could be plural; as in "The alarm goes off if one touches it"

You must log in to answer this question.