Gramatical Moods in English

Grammatical moods in English


 In this use The "mood" does not mean mentalstate of mind or feeling.

 It is alteration of mode. (Mood is sometimes referred to as "mode" instead.)


 Grammatical mood is the quality of a verb that conveys the writer's attitude toward a subject.

 In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood, which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent.

  Many languages express distinctions of mood through morphology, by changing (inflecting) the form of the verb.

 A verb phrase can also express mood, which refers to the "factual or non-factual status of events."

 It is one of a set of distinctive forms that are used to signal modality.

  It is distinct from grammatical tense or grammatical aspect, although these concepts are conflated to some degree in many languages, including English and most other modern Indo-European languages, insofar as the same word patterns are used to express more than one of these concepts at the same time.

There are three moods in English

•Indicative mood
•Imperative mood
•Subjunctive mood

 Realis mood 

 Realis moods are a category of grammatical moods that indicate that something is actually the case or actually not the case.

  The most common realis mood is the indicative mood. Some languages have a distinct generic mood for expressing general truths. 

 Indicative mood 

 The indicative mood, (evidential mood), is used for factual statements and positive beliefs.

  All intentions that a particular language does not categorize as another mood are classified as indicative. In Englishquestions are considered indicative. It is the most commonly used mood and is found in all languages.


・John was born in London.

 There is ample evidence to support this statement, so the writer uses the indicative mood to state it as fact.

・Was John born in London?

 This verb asks a question and so is in the indicative mood. 

・She believes her physician is well qualified.

 Whether "she" is correct or not, the verb "is" indicates that "she believes" her statement to be true. The verb "believes" is in the indicative mood, because the writer of the sentence is reporting what she talks to be fact.

・Is her physician at her beside?

 The verb "is" is in the indicative mood because it asks a question.


The indicative mood is for statements of actuality or strong probability:


·The spine-tailed swift flies faster than any other bird in the world.
·The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers rose to record heights in 1993.
·Midwesterners will remember the flooding for many years to come.
·One may use "do", "does", or "did" with the indicative for emphasis.

 Present indicative: 

・Joey laughs on television.

 Past indicative: 

・ Joey laughed on television.

 Future indicative: 

・Joey will laugh on television tomorrow. 

 Generic mood 

 The generic mood, in linguistics, is a mood used to make generalized comments about a class of thing.

  In English, generic verbs are not morphologically distinct from indicative. In most cases, generic statements can only be recognized by context and linguistic experience.

 Declarative mood 

The declarative mood indicates that the statement is true, without any qualifications being made.

  It is in many languages equivalent to the indicative mood, although sometimes distinctions between them are drawn. It is closely related with the inferential mood.

 Irrealis mood 

 Irrealis moods are the set of grammatical moods that indicate that something is not actually the case.

  Simply put, they are any verb or sentence mood that are not realis moods. They may be part of expressions of necessitypossibilityrequirementwish or desirefear, or as part of counterfactual reasonings, etc.


・Wish or Desire
・Part of counterfactual reasonings, etc.

Irrealis verb forms are used when speaking of an event which has not happened, is not likely to happen, or is otherwise far removed from the real course of events.

For example, in the sentence
"If you had done your homework, you wouldn't have failed the class",

had done is an irrealis verb form.

 Imperative mood 

 The imperative mood expresses direct commands or requests as a grammatical mood. 


·Leave the room!
·Call an ambulance!
·Let them die!
·Get up!
·Look it up!
·Just do it!

 These commands or requests tell the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition,permission, or any other kind of exhortation.


・Urgent demand

Using the imperative mood may sound blunt or even rude, so it is often used with care.


Formulation of the English imperative simply uses the bare infinitive form of the verb.

  The infinitive form usually corresponds to the second-person present indicative form, with theexception of the verb "be". The subject of these sentences can only identify as you (the second person).


·Come here.
·Have a nice day!
·Don't go!
·Let me free!


 Easily, the use of imperative mood has consequences of appearing offensive or inappropriate in social situations due to universally recognized politeness rules.

  Therefore, there exist common practices to formulate exhortations indirectly as questions or assertions, such as the following:

・Could you come here for a moment?
・I beg you to stop.

and not as commands, such as:

Come here.

 Politeness strategies (for instance, indirect speech acts) can seem more appropriate in order not to threaten a conversational partner in their needs of self-determination and territory: the partner's negative face should not appear threatened.

  As a result, to express a request or prohibition does not necessarily require to use the imperative mood frequently.

 The imperative mood's appropriateness depends on such factors as psychological and social relationships, as well as the speaker’s basic communicative intention (illocutionary force).

 For example, the speaker may have the simple intention to offer something, to wish or permit something, or just to apologize, and not to manipulate their conversational partner.

  In such cases, people will not place restriction on the use of imperative:

Come to the party tomorrow!
・Just smoke the cigarette if you want!
Have a nice trip!

 Indicative and prohibitive mood 

The prohibitive mood negates the imperative mood. The two moods often seem different in word order or in morphology. 

 Subjunctive mood 

  The subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in dependent clauses to express a wish,emotionpossibilityjudgmentopinionnecessity, or action that has not yet occurred

  It is sometimes referred to as the conjunctive mood, as it often follows a conjunction.

 The details of subjunctive use vary from language to language.


・Action that has not yet occurred.

 The subjunctive mood appears in relatively few constructions.

 It is used most often to express conditions contrary to fact and to express wishessuppositions, and doubts. The subjunctive appears most often in formal writing and in the speech of educated persons.

 The indicative mood almost always replaces the subjunctive mood in informal writing and everyday speech.


・I wish my father were still alive.

This is a wish, so "were" is in the subjunctive mood. 

・Suppose he were still alive, would he favor that action?

The verb "were" is in the subjunctive mood because "suppose he were still alive" is a supposition. 

・If this be treason, make the most of it!

The speaker firmly believes he or she is not guilty of treason, but there may be doubt in the minds of others. The subjunctive "be" express this doubt. 

・If Helen Wills Moody were representing us at Wimbledon today, victory would be ours.

The conjunction "If" introduces a conditional statement. Since Helen Wills Moody is not alive to represent us at Wimbledon, the condition is contrary to fact. The verb "were representing" indicates that this condition is contrary to fact. 


 In modern English, most verb tenses in the Subjunctive Mood are similar or identical to the corresponding tenses in the Indicative Mood. It should be noted that verbs in the Subjunctive Mooddo not modify, but have the same form regardless of the subject.

 The Simple Present Subjunctive and Simple Past Subjunctive of the verb "to be" are shown below. The Indicative forms are also given, for purposes of comparison. 

Were vs. Was

 We sometimes hear things like "if I were you, I would go" or "if he were here, he would tell you". Normally, the past tense of the verb "to be" is: I was, he was.

  But the "if I were you" structure does not use the past simple tense of the verb "to be".

  It uses the past subjunctive of the verb "to be". In the following examples, you can see that we often use the subjunctive form were instead of "was" after:

・as if

Formal⇒The "were" form is correct at all times.
Informal⇒The "was" form is possible in informal, familiar conversation.

We do not normally say "if I was you", even in familiar conversation.

 For any verb, the Simple Present Subjunctive is formed from the bare infinitive of the verb.

 For any verb except the verb "to be", the Simple Past Subjunctive is identical to the Simple Past Indicative.

 For all of the past and present tenses conjugated with auxiliaries, the Subjunctive tenses are formedin the same way as the Indicative tensesexcept that the Subjunctive of the auxiliaries is used.

Future subjunctive

 A future subjunctive can be constructed using the conjugated form of the verb "to be" plus theinfinitive or with the usage of the modal auxiliary verb "should".

 Note that the "were" clauses are followed by the present conditional ("would"), while the "should" clauses are followed by the future indicative ("will")


・If I were to die tomorrow, then you would inherit everything.
・If you were to give the money to me, then I would say no more about it.
・If I should go, then will you feed the hens? [or If I/he go...]
・If he should fall, who will carry the flag in his place? [or If he fall...]

The subjunctive does not change according to person.
(I, you, he, she, it, we, they )


・It is a good idea that you be a fastidious grammar student.
(active simple present subjunctive)

・The boss desires that all employees beworking when she returns.
(active present progressive subjunctive)

・It is desirable that she have included references in the report.
(active present perfect subjunctive)

・The parents demand that the child have been cleaning his room for at least an hour before watching television.
(active present perfect-progressive subjunctive)

・If I were a rich girl, I would be very lucky indeed.
(active simple past subjunctive)

・The teacher would not have to punish the entire class if the break monitor were behaving.
(active past progressive subjunctive)

・If I had eaten all the cookies, then ants would not have gotten into my kitchen.
(active past perfect subjunctive)

Had the boy been studying as he said, he would not have failed the test.
(active past perfect-progressive subjunctive)


・The executives insist that the copier be repaired by a trained technician.
(passive simple present subjunctive)

・It is imperative that alcoholic drinks be being drunk by only adults at this party.
(passive present progressive subjunctive)

・It is essential that references have been included in the report.
(passive present perfect subjunctive)

・The committee asks that the final report have been being compiled by the staff today.
(passive present perfect-progressive subjunctive)

Were your car damaged by an uninsured motorist, then you could sue for damages.
(passive simple past subjunctive)

・If the driveway were being resealed, then I would park on the road.
(passive past progressive subjunctive)

Had your windows been destroyed by the storm, then you could have filed an insurance claim.
(passive past perfect subjunctive)

・If the pumpkins had not been being stolen, then we would have had dozens.
(passive past perfect-progressive subjunctive)

The verb "be" and similar intransitive verbs (copula) do not have subjunctive passive forms. 


 To express a formal request, or suggestion  

 Content clauses expressing commandsrequests, or suggestions commonly use the present subjunctive in US English, but this usage is now very rare in speech and rare in writing in UK English.

 Such clauses may be introduced by a verb like proposesuggestrecommendmove (in the parliamentary sense), demand, or mandate, by an adjective like imperativeimportantadamant, ornecessary, or by a noun like insistence or proposal.

Sentence that express suggestions or requirements with verbs such as those listed below often require the subjunctive mood.

Sentences beginning with expressions such as those listed below may also signal the need for the subjunctive mood.

 When writing in the subjunctive mood, the verb in the dependent clause -the clause introduced by the word "that"- is always in the base form.

For example, use "be" (not am, is, or are) for all three persons (first, second, and third) 


・I insist that I be allowed to ride in the ambulance with my baby.
(not "am")

・I recommend that he be sentenced to life in prison.
(not "is")

・We require that you be certified as first responders at the operational level.
(not "are")

Other verbs are also written in the base form. even when the subject is third person singular.


・The doctor suggested that Bruce try physical therapy before considering surgery.
(not "tries")

・It is important that Judy document the injury as soon as possible.
(not "documents")

・It is required that the hotel post emergency procedures information in the guest rooms.
(not "posts")

The Simple Present Subjunctive is more commonly used in formal English than in informal English.

For instance, the sentence "He advises that you not be late," is an example of formal English.

In informal English, the same idea would probably be expressed by the sentence "He advises you not to be late," in which the infinitive is used, rather than a clause requiring the Simple Present Subjunctive.


The use of the subjunctive as above is more common in American English than in English, whereshould + infinitive is often used:

・The manager insists that the car park should be locked at night.
・It was essential that we should vote as soon as possible.

 To express a wish 

The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, are used in the subordinate clauses of sentences which use the verb to wish in the main clause.


・I wish he were here.
・I would that my Lord forgive me one day.
・He would that his master not be so cruel.
・I would that the subjunctive be restored to glory.
・He wishes that he were rich.
・They wish that they had studied harder when they were young.
・She wishes that you would come to the meeting tomorrow.

It should be noted that the word "thatcan be omitted from a sentence which uses the verb "to wish" in the main clause.

 However, after the construction "would" that to express wishful hypothesis rather than condition, it seems that either past or present subjunctive could be used, depending on whether the hypothetical situation "were" completely abstract and not imminent (present) or potentially realizable (past).


・I repent; I would that my Lord forgave me.
・In humble request, he would that his master were not so cruel.
・Fellow editors, I would that the subjunctive were restored to glory.

 The form of the verb used in the subordinate clause of a wish is independent of the tense of the verb in the main clause.

 As explained below, the form of the verb used in the subordinate clause of a wish is determined by whether the time of the action referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than, the same as, orlater than the time of the action referred to in the main clause.

1.An earlier time

When the subordinate clause refers to an earlier time than the main clause, the Past Perfect Subjunctive is usually used in the subordinate clause. 


・We wished he had spoken to us.
・I wish you had called earlier.
・They will wish they had listened to us sooner.

 In the case of a progressiveongoing action, the Past Perfect Progressive Subjunctive may be used instead of the Past Perfect Subjunctive.


・She wishes she had been staying with us last week.

In each of these examples, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive or the Past Perfect Progressive Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause refers to an earlier time than the main clause

2.The same time

 When the subordinate clause refers to the same time as the main clause, the Simple Past Subjunctive is usually used in the subordinate clause.

・When she was at the party, she wished she were at home.
・Now that he is in China, he wishes he understood Chinese.
・When we begin the trip, they will wish they were with us.

 In the case of a progressive, ongoing action, the Past progressive Subjunctive may be used instead of the Simple Past Subjunctive.


・They wish they were traveling now.

In each of these examples, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive or the Past Progressive Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause refers to the same time as the main clause.

3.A later time

When the subordinate clause refers to a later time than the main clause, the Simple conjugation with the auxiliary "would" is usually used in the subordinate clause.


・You wished she would arrive the next day.
・I wish she would change her mind.
・He will wish we would join him the following week.

In each of these examples, the use of the Simple conjugation with "would" indicates that the subordinate clause refers to a later time than the main clause.

4.Use of the auxiliary "Could" in expressing wishes

 It should be noted that the modal auxiliary "could" can also be used in the subordinate clause of a sentence expressing a wish.

  The auxiliary could forms conjugations in the same way as the auxiliary "would".


・I wish I could help you tomorrow.
・I wish I could help you now.

  The Simple conjugation with could may be used when the time referred to in the subordinate clause is later than, or the same as, the time referred to in the main clause.

 The Perfect conjugation with "could" may be used when the time referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than the time referred to in the main clause.


・ I wish I could have helped you yesterday.

 To express a purpose 

The conjunction "lest", indicating a negative purpose, generally introduces a subjunctive clause:


・I eat lest I die.
・I will place the book back on the shelf, lest it get lost.

The conjunction "in order that", indicating a positive purpose, also sometimes introduces a subjunctive clause, though it more commonly introduces a clause using the auxiliary verb "may" (or in the subjunctive, "might"):


・I am putting your dinner in the oven in order that it (maykeep warm.
・He wrote it in his diary in order that he (mightremember.

 To express a doubt or supposition 

The subjunctive is sometimes used after other conjunctions to express doubt or supposition, althoughthis usage is nowadays more often replaced by the indicative.


・I will not let thee go, except [=unless] thou bless me.
・Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak.
・Whoever he be, he shall not go unpunished.
・But [=although] he were dead, yet shall he live.
・If I be found guilty, I shall be given the maximum punishment.
・I won't do it unless [or until] I be told to do it.
・Whether he vote for this or not (If he vote for it or if he not vote for it), we must proceed with the plan.
・I want you to give this money to him so that he have enough for lunch.
(the conjunction "so that" takes a subjunctive in formal English)

 To express a hypothesis 

Conditional mood

The conditional mood is the form of the verb used in conditional sentences to refer to ahypothetical state of affairs, or an uncertain event that is contingent on another set of circumstances.

 This mood is thus similar to the subjunctive mood, although languages that have distinct verb forms for the two use them in distinct ways.

Subjunctive vs conditional

 This is a fairly complex topic and even the experts disagree on the nuances. The web has vast amounts of information on the formation and use of the conditional/subjunctive, the decline of the subjunctive in English, and provides many examples.

 The conditional mood involves statements in which the results or outcome are contingent (depend) on a given situation or condition, including, like the subjunctivehypothetical situations.

 The certainty of the outcome can vary from absolutely certain (not always considered the "true" conditional) through generally, potentially, and rarely certain to contrary to fact (the unreal conditional). 


・If you take LSD you start to hallucinate. (Certain)
・When I feed my dog, he usually bites me. (Generally certain)
・If he were to arrive right now, we might have a chance to see him. (Hypothetical/uncertain).
・If I made lots of money, I would invest in gold (Contrary to fact).

 The subjunctive mood treats statements of emotion, wishing, uncertainty, and contrary to fact/hypothetical situations:


・I wish he were dead!
・May you always be prosperous!
・I wish I were in Figi, it is too cold here.
・Would that it were true!

 There is a link between the conditional and subjunctive: in an unreal present conditional statement (one hypothetical or contrary to fact), the main clause (the result) is in the conditional while the subordinate clause (the condition) is in the subjunctive:


・I would have more fun in Berlin if I spoke German. (I don't speak German).

Reduction in the usage of the subjunctive

In some dialects of English, the indicative has taken the place of the subjunctive, although this is considered erroneous by some in formal speech and writing. The similarity of the subjunctive and the past tense has led to the confusion between the two, and the error is evident in various pop culture references and music lyrics.


・If I was President...
・If he was a ghost...
・If I was a rich girl...

This reduction of usage is not uniform; compare:


・If I Were a Carpenter, a song written by Tim Hardin
・If I Were a Boy, a song written by Toby Gad and BC Jean and recorded by singer Beyoncé Knowles in 2008.

However, in the context of the examples above, inversion cannot occur with the indicative as it would with the subjunctive; the following are ungrammatical, except insofar as they could be misinterpreted as questions:


・Was I the President...
・Was he a ghost...

 Furthermore, many of the fossil phrases are often re-analyzed as imperative forms rather than as the subjunctive. The subjunctive is not uniform in all varieties of spoken English. However, it is preserved in speech, at least in North American English and in many dialects of British English.

  Some dialects replace it with the indicative or construct it using a modal verb, except perhaps in the most formal literary discourse. According to the Random House College Dictionary, "Although the subjunctive seems to be disappearing from the speech of many, its use is still the mark of the educated speaker."