Using English Language Verb Moods
Verbs in modern English have three moods: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. Indicative is the most common; almost all verbs are in the indicative mood. The two other moods — imperative and subjunctive — enter speech and writing less frequently.
Think of indicative verbs as the permanent cast of a TV show. They are always around and are familiar to everyone.
How does indicative mood look?
The indicative verbs are italicized in the following sentences:
Betsy displayed her musical range when she played a Bach concerto and a heavy-metal hit in the same concert.
Larry will be the principal tenant of the honeymoon hotel as soon as Ella agrees to marry him.
Eggworthy often dreams about bacon.
What’s imperative mood?
Don’t worry about imperatives; they’re fairly simple. Imperative verbs give commands. Most imperative verbs don’t have a written (or spoken) subject. Instead, the subject in an imperative (command) sentence is you-understood. The word you usually does not appear before the imperative verb. The reader or listener simply understands that you is implied.
Here’s a command. Read these examples of imperative verbs, italicized in the following sentences:
Eat a balanced diet.
Climb every mountain.
Calculate the odds.
No matter what happens, hit the road.
Fake a sincere smile and you’ve got it made.
Think of imperative verbs as recurring guest stars on a sitcom, the characters who show up every three or four episodes just to add a little flavor to the mix.
There’s almost nothing you can do wrong in creating an imperative sentence, so this topic is a free pass. Go fishing, or if you’re in the mood to torture yourself, move on to the subjunctive.
Can you pick out subjunctive mood?
Headache time! The subjunctive mood is rare, but it draws errors like a magnet and thus deserves a separate article to delve into its details. Master subjunctives and you’ll qualify for the title “Grammarian of the Year.”
Subjunctive verbs show up when you state something that is contrary to fact. They may also express indirect commands, requests, and wishes. Here’s one example:
Subjunctive: If Roger were an honorable spy, he would not reveal the atomic secret hidden in the bean burrito.
Why it’s subjunctive: Roger is not an honorable spy, and he’s going to blab the secret.
What the normal subject-verb pair would be: Roger was.
Subjunctive verbs make only a few cameo appearances. Like a pampered superstar, a subjunctive shows up only when the situation is exactly right.