Mastering Verb Moods

Have you ever thought about how the mood of a verb can completely alter a sentence’s vibe? It’s all in the details! Knowing how to use verb moods can up your writing game.

Think of verb mood as the writer’s way of showing how they feel about what they’re writing. Here’s why it matters: the mood of a verb can change the tone of your writing and keep your readers engaged.

Mood is a feature of verbs that shows how the action or state is expressed. The word mood comes from the Latin word modus, meaning manner.

Verb mood is how a verb sets the tone in a sentence. It tells us whether something is a fact, a command, a question, a wish, or a possibility.

Look at these sentences and notice the verb forms:

♦ Maddox is quiet.
♦ Is Maddox quiet?
♦ If Maddox were quiet, I might study.
♦ Maddox, be quiet.

The first and second sentences, is states or asks about a fact. In the third sentence, were shows a condition that isn’t true. In the fourth sentence, be gives a command or request.
The verb forms in these sentences are called different moods.

Types of Verb Moods

Today we’ll explore moods of verbs and how they can add depth and nuance to your writing.

There are five moods for verbs: the indicative, the imperative, the subjunctive, the interrogative and the conditional

In the examples we looked at earlier:

Is is in the indicative mood.
Were is in the subjunctive mood.
Be is in the imperative mood.

The Indicative Mood

We use the indicative mood for stating facts, opinions, and asking questions. It’s the most common mood you’ll use.

Fact: The sky is blue.
Opinion: I think chocolate is the best flavour.
Question: Do you like ice cream?

The indicative mood has different forms for active and passive voice and for all six tenses: present, past, future, perfect (or present perfect), past perfect (or pluperfect), and future perfect.

Common Uses of the Indicative Mood

The indicative mood can also express many other thoughts. Here are some examples:

Assertion: Time waits for no one.
Question: How are you?
Exclamation: How it rains!
Supposition: If the river rises, the houses will be swept away.
Doubt: I suspect he has left.
Desire: I hope Jorja will come soon.
Concession: Though Monica totally hates algebra, she never gives up.
Command: You will report for duty immediately.
Request: Will you lend me your knife?

Use the indicative mood when you want to inform or ask your readers about something. It’s straightforward and clear, making it perfect for most of your writing.

Indicative and Subjunctive Moods

At first, the indicative and subjunctive moods had their own forms and uses. English has gotten simpler over time, and now these moods are practically identical. Now, people use the indicative mood instead of the subjunctive in many cases.

It’s tricky to explain the indicative mood with all its functions. The indicative mood is all about stating facts, while the subjunctive is for supposing or just thinking. But the indicative mood can also show guesses, conditions, doubts, wants, and concessions.

The Imperative Mood

We use the imperative mood for giving commands or making requests.

♦ She has been writing all morning. (The action has already begun and is still ongoing).

Commands

Here are a few examples:

♦ Hurry!
♦ Lie down.
♦ Shut the door.
♦ Light the lamp.
♦ Show us the way.
♦ Wait a moment.
♦ Come to dinner.

The imperative mood has a few key features:

Voices: It has both active and passive forms.
Tense: It only uses the present tense.
Numbers: It works for both singular and plural forms.
Person: It always addresses the second person (you).
Form: The same form is used for both singular and plural.

Active and Passive Forms

This active form is the simplest form.

♦ Be brave.
♦ Be careful.
♦ Be sure you are right.
♦ Be here at noon.

The passive form is a phrase with be and a past participle.

♦ Be trusted rather than feared.
♦ Study your failures and be instructed by them.

Using the Imperative

We rarely state the subject unless it’s important. If you use it, it can come before the verb.

♦ You sit here.

Emphatic Form

To emphasize a command, use do before the verb.

♦ Do tell me what he said.
♦ Do stand still.

When the subject is included:

♦ Do you remain.

Negative Commands (Prohibition)

Use do not to give a negative command.

♦ Do not open a closed door without knocking.
♦ Do not forget to say ‘thank you.’

In poetry or formal language, simply use not with the imperative.

♦ Seek not to learn my name.

Commands in the Indicative Mood

Sometimes commands use shall or will.

♦ Don’t steal.
♦ You will leave the room immediately.

For brief commands like Forward! or Off with you!, and for using the imperative in conditions, follow similar guidelines.

The Subjunctive Mood

We use the subjunctive mood in special cases like expressing wishes or conditions and similar ideas. It often sounds a bit formal or old-fashioned.

In older English, the subjunctive mood was used a lot, especially in poetry and formal writing. Nowadays, in regular writing and speaking, we don’t see it much except for the verb be.

♦ Wish: I wish I were taller.
♦ Condition: If I were you, I would apologize.
Doubt: If he were here, we would start the meeting.
Formal Writing: If this is true, we must act.
Contrary to fact: If I were a bird, I would fly to the mountains.

In everyday conversation, we rarely use the subjunctive mood, except in specific cases like the examples above.

Present Tense

Singular Plural
1. If I be. 1. If we be.
2. If you be. 2. If you be.
3. If he/she/it be. 3. If they be.

Past Tense

Singular Plural
1. If I were. 1. If we were.
2. If you were. 2. If you were.
3. If he/she/it were. 3. If they were.

Perfect (or Present Perfect) Tense

Singular Plural
1. If I have been. 1. If we have been.
2. If you have been. 2. If you have been.
3. If he/she/it have been. 3. If they have been.

Past Perfect (or Pluperfect) Tense

Singular Plural
1. If I had been. 1. If we had been.
2. If you had been. 2. If you had been.
3. If he/she/it had been. 3. If they had been.

For most verbs, the subjunctive mood looks the same as the indicative mood, except in the second and third person singular forms of the present and perfect tenses, which match the first person form.

Indicative: He runs (present), He has run (perfect)
Subjunctive: If he run (present), If he have run (perfect)

Passive Subjunctive

In the passive voice, the subjunctive uses forms of the verb be as helpers (auxiliaries):

Present: If I be struck
Past: If I were struck
Perfect: If I have been struck
Pastperfect: If I had been struck

Progressive Verb Phrases in the Subjunctive

You can also form progressive verb phrases in the subjunctive using the verb be:

Present: If I be striking (rare)
Past: If I were striking (common)

These forms are more common in formal writing and less so in everyday conversation.

The Subjunctive Active

For most verbs, the subjunctive mood looks the same as the indicative mood, except in the second and third person singular forms of the present and perfect tenses, which match the first person form.

Present Subjunctive

First person: If I strike.
Second person: If you strike.
Third person: If he/she/it strike.

Perfect Subjunctive

First person: If I have struck.
Second person: If you have struck.
Third person: If he/she/it have struck.

The Passive Subjunctive

The passive subjunctive uses forms of the verb be as helpers:

Present: If I be struck.
Past: If I were struck.
Perfect: If I have been struck.
Pastperfect: If I had been struck.

Progressive Subjunctive

You form progressive verb phrases in the subjunctive by using be.

Present: If I be striking. (This form is rare.)
Past: If I were striking. (This form is more common.)

The Interrogative Mood

We use the interrogative mood to ask questions. It engages people by prompting them to think about an answer.

♦ What time is it?
♦ Why is the sky blue?
♦ How do you solve this problem?

The Conditional Mood

The conditional mood expresses conditions and hypothetical situations. It often uses words like if or would.

♦ If it rains, we will stay inside.
♦ I would go to the party if I were invited.
♦ If you study hard, you will pass the test.

Use the conditional mood to explore possibilities and scenarios. It helps in creating what-if situations.

The Difference Between Interrogative and Indicative Moods

At first glance, it may look like the Indicative and Interrogative are similar because they both ask questions.

But indicative mood is used to make statements or express facts and opinions. It tells us something directly.

♦ She likes to read.
♦ The sun rises in the east.
♦ They are going to the park.

While the interrogative mood is used to ask questions. It seeks information or clarification.

♦ Does she like to read?
♦ Where does the sun rise?
♦ Are they going to the park?

Key Differences

Indicative Interrogative
Function States a fact or opinion. Asks a question.
Structure Subject-verb order (e.g., She likes to read). Often inverts the subject and auxiliary verb (e.g., Does she like to read?).
Punctuation Ends with a period (.) Ends with a question mark (?)
Examples The cat is on the roof. Is the cat on the roof?

In summary, the indicative mood tells us something, while the interrogative mood asks us something.

The Difference Between the Conditional and Subjunctive Moods

The conditional mood and subjective mood also have similarities. The conditional mood is used to express actions or events that are dependent on a condition. It often uses words like if or would.

♦ If it rains, we will stay inside.
♦ She would travel more if she had the time.
♦ If I won the lottery, I would buy a house.

 The subjunctive mood is used to express wishes, hypothetical situations, demands, or suggestions. It often describes situations that are contrary to fact or unlikely to happen.

♦ If he were here, he would help us.
♦ It is important that she be on time.
♦ I suggest that he apologize.

Key Differences

Conditional Subjunctive
Function Describes what could happen if a certain condition is met Describes wishes, hypothetical situations, or suggestions that are not necessarily real or likely.
Usage Often uses if and would to show the dependency of one action on another. Often uses forms like were (instead of was) and be in specific constructions to show unreal or desired conditions.
Examples If it snows, the game will be canceled. (The game being canceled depends on the condition of it snowing.) He acts as if he were the boss. (Expressing a situation contrary to reality.)

So, the conditional mood is all about potential situations based on conditions, and the subjunctive mood is more about hypothetical or wishful situations that may not be real.

Combining Moods for Effect

Throw in some different moods to make your writing more interesting.

♦ If it rains tomorrow (conditional), we should stay inside (imperative). I wonder if it will rain (interrogative). The weather forecast says it might (indicative). I wish it wouldn’t (subjunctive)!

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Exercises for the Mood of Verbs

Read each sentence carefully and identify the mood of the verb(s). The moods can be indicative, imperative, subjunctive, interrogative, or conditional.

  1. She always finishes her homework before dinner.
  2. Do you know where the library is?
  3. If I had a million dollars, I would travel the world.
  4. Please close the door when you leave.
  5. He wishes he were taller so he could join the basketball team.
  6. They will arrive at 7 PM.
  7. Were I a bird, I would fly across the ocean.
  8. Don’t forget to bring your umbrella.
  9. If it rains tomorrow, the picnic will be cancelled.
  10. Will you help me with this project?
  11. I suggest she study harder for the next test.
  12. The dog barked loudly at the mailman.
  13. Would you like to join us for dinner?
  14. Be kind to others and treat them with respect.
  15. If I were in charge, things would be different.
  16. You must finish your assignment before the deadline.
  17. Did you see the movie last night?
  18. I hope they arrive safely.
  19. If he had known, he would have come earlier.
  20. Stand up straight and look confident.
Click on the + button for the answers
  1. She always finishes her homework before dinner. Indicative
  2. Do you know where the library is? Interrogative
  3. If I had a million dollars, I would travel the world. Conditional
  4. Please close the door when you leave. Imperative
  5. He wishes he were taller so he could join the basketball team. Subjunctive
  6. They will arrive at 7 PM. Indicative
  7. Were I a bird, I would fly across the ocean. Subjunctive
  8. Don’t forget to bring your umbrella. Imperative
  9. If it rains tomorrow, the picnic will be cancelled. Conditional
  10. Will you help me with this project? Interrogative
  11. I suggest that she study harder for the next test. Subjunctive
  12. The dog barked loudly at the mailman. Indicative
  13. Would you like to join us for dinner? Interrogative
  14. Be kind to others and treat them with respect. Imperative
  15. If I were in charge, things would be different. Subjunctive
  16. You must finish your assignment before the deadline. Imperative
  17. Did you see the movie last night? Interrogative
  18. I hope that they arrive safely. Indicative
  19. If he had known, he would have come earlier. Conditional
  20. Stand up straight and look confident. Imperative

Ten Tips for Verb Inflection

1. Identify Context: Pay attention to the context of the sentence to determine the mood. Is it a fact, command, question, condition, or wish?
2. Look for Clues: Words like if, wish, suggest, or would can indicate the conditional or subjunctive mood.
3. Recognize Commands: Commands or requests often have the verb at the beginning and sometimes omit the subject.
4. Ask Questions: Interrogative sentences often start with a question word or invert the subject and auxiliary verb.
5. Express Conditions: Conditional sentences usually have two parts: the condition (if-clause) and the result (main clause).

6. Wishes and Hypotheticals: Subjunctive mood sentences often use were instead of was for wishes or hypotheticals.
7. Mixed Moods: Some sentences may contain multiple moods. Identify each part separately.
8. Learn the Exceptions: English has exceptions and irregularities. For instance, I wish it were true instead of was.
9. Use Do for Emphasis: In the imperative mood, do can be used for emphasis.
10. Future Possibilities: The conditional mood can also talk about future possibilities.

Last Words on the Mood of Verbs

Each mood adds a different touch to your sentences, making your writing more engaging and effective. So, experiment with verb moods and see how they can transform your writing style!

Happy writing!

Linda

 

Feature Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay.

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