Verb Moods

Does it seem strange to think that verbs have moods? In fact, verb moods are necessary to convey certain meanings when simple tenses just don’t do the trick. Moods are used to convey the attitude of the speaker.

Let’s examine the verb “to be” to clarify this. The present tense of the verb to be for the pronoun “I” would normally be “am,” as in the statement “I am an expert in the field.” Now consider the following statement:

The job requires that I be an expert in the field.

You can see that this statement makes perfect sense, even though we don’t normally say the words “I be” together. Alana Frazier, a content expert at Essay 4 Students, explains that it is because the verb  mood in this sentence is subjunctive, one of the three main verb moods. Subjective mood is used to convey that something that is conditional: this means it’s not real, or it  might be real, or is not real yet.

Subjunctive Mood 

The following sentences will sound perfectly normal, but you will notice that the subject-verb combination seems irregular. The verbs are simply expressing subjunctive moods.

  • If I were an astronaut, I’d take great pictures of the planet.
  • If Lucy were to run for office, I’d definitely vote for her.
  • She asked that we be quiet during the program.

Notice how the statements above suggest situations that could be real, but they just aren't happening at the present time? Subjunctive verbs could be used in any situation where doubt is present, or to express hypothetical situations:

  • To express something that might happen: If it were to rain, we’d have to take the bus.
  • To express a wish or hope: If I were the boss, I’d make every Tuesday a long lunch day.
  • To express that something should happen: It is important that the dog eats before the cat.

Note: The subjunctive mood is not specific to English language; it is common in many other languages, so it is a good idea to understand this mood when you study a foreign language.

Indicative Mood

The indicative mood is the mood that you will probably feel most familiar and comfortable with. It is simply the mood that we use when we express a statement that is true, or when we are making a claim, or when we are asking a question.

  • I am following a truck.
  • What are you following?
  • We should go to the store.
  • It rains every Friday. 
  • I hope we will win next Friday.
  • We won last week. 

Imperative Mood

Imperative mood is the mood we use when we are giving instruction or making a command. You can think of this as the "bossy" mood, because the tone just seems a little demanding.

  • Go to the door and ring the bell.
  • Get out of those pajamas.
  • Ask permission before you take a cookie out of the jar.
  • Get off at the next exit.
  • Let me cut your hair.
  • Eat your vegetables and I'll let you have some dessert.

As you read over the sentences above, you may notice that something is missing. There is a verb, but there is not a subject stated in most imperative statements! That is because the subject is understood as the person being addressed. Most imperative statements contain an implied you as a subject.

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