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Take this sentence structure:

When X happens, Z typically happens.

It is a zero conditional because it uses "when" and the present simple.

According to the rule, a zero conditional can only be used when the result of the condition is always true (correct me if I am wrong).

The above sentence is using "typically", which implies that the result of the condition is not always true.

Knowing this, is using a zero conditional in the above sentence wrong? If so, how should it be rewritten?

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    Nothing is wrong with your example. You can use adverbs of frequency with the zero conditional. There is no rule against this.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 12:54
  • related: Can I delete some words from this sentence?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 22:25
  • Can you say how 'Z typically happens' is without condition? Had you said 'Z always happens' that might have been acceptable but how is 'typically' unconditional? Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 22:42

1 Answer 1

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The OP needs to be corrected! It's not true that a zero conditional can only be used when the result of the condition is always true.

It's just that we do in fact use the "zero conditional" for "universal truths" like If you heat ice it melts. But we also use it for things that often happen (with no qualification).

AND we can explicitly qualify the likelihood of a less probable scenario using Present Tense throughout: If you heat a stone it sometimes cracks (it doesn't have to be ...it will sometimes crack).


As has often been pointed out here and on ELU, "numbered conditionals" aren't very useful in the context of learning English. Hardly any native Anglophones know or care what they are, and in any case they don't cover all scenarios or syntactic constructions. Don't spend too much time learning the specific contexts covered by constructions which have been assigned numbers, and don't assume a "usage summary" applies to every situation.

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    No. I don't think formal / informal is a relevant concept here. Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 13:01

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