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Verb Moods‏‎ in English Grammar

A crying girlVerb Moods (sometimes known as Grammatical Mood) are ways of looking at verbs‏‎ and classifying them which show the attitude of the speaker.

Traditionally verbs have three moods: the indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive. However, some grammarians will also include other moods such as the infinitive, the interrogative and the conditional.

The Indicative Mood

The indicative mood is used in most statements‏‎ and questions‏‎ to assert or show (i.e. indicate) something.

I am Italian.

They feel happy.

She ran off when the police arrived.

The Imperative Mood

The imperative mood is used to expresses commands or requests.

Listen to me!

Bring your bank book with you.

See the main article, Imperatives‏‎.

The Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is used to express a subjective opinion and to make contrary-to-fact or hypothetical statements.

If my father were here… (but he’s not)

I wish I had something to eat… (but I don’t)

See the main article, Subjunctive‏‎s.

Other Moods

Some grammars also include these moods; not all grammarians agree as to what a mood is in English!

the conditional mood

The Conditional Mood is the form of the verb used in conditional sentences to refer to a hypothetical situation or an uncertain event that is dependent on another set of circumstances.

In other words, the conditional mood talks about something which might happen if something else does!

See the main article, Conditional Mood‏‎ in English Grammar.

the interrogative mood

This is all about asking questions and the way in which the verb and subject change positions.

See the main article, Questions‏‎ in English Grammar.

the infinitive mood

Verbs in the infinitive mood are verbs which are not used as verbs but as nouns, etc. For example

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Here, to err and to forgive are used as nouns.

See the main article, Infinitives in English Grammar.

Moods & TEFL

Is it worth explaining all this to your class?

It is useful to use these terms because of the way in which English grammar works. You might simply talk about statements with your class and general sentences, but when you have to explain why some sentences use certain verb forms or perhaps do not require a subject, then often it’s easier to talk about sentences being imperative or in the subjunctive.

Image © angelina_koh

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