Did you know that English has three moods?
Back in the fall, I talked about verb tenses. Because verbs drive our sentences (not to mention the rest of our lives), they carry a lot of responsibility. Not only do verbs change tense, but they also tell us about number and person, link other words together, and convey voice and mood. Today, we’re going to focus on mood.
The three moods in English are: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. The first two are fairly straightforward, so let’s look at them first.
The indicative mood is used to make statements, ask questions, and express opinions and facts.
- Frankenstein’s monster was tired.
- His wife thought he was faking it.
- Are you trying to get out of going to my mother’s?
The imperative mood is used to express commands and requests. With the imperative, the pronoun you is often absent from the sentence, but is clearly implied.
- Stop playing with your food.
- Put the neighbor’s child down.
Pretty straightforward, right? Okay, now let’s look at the somewhat-more-complicated subjunctive.
The subjunctive mood is used to express hypothetical and conditional statements. In other words, we use the subjunctive to talk about things that are not reality, but could be — or at least, we hope they could be. For example, we use it when we’re fantasizing about world domination and cupcakes (or other things, I suppose).
- I wish I were Supreme Overlord of the Galaxy.
- If I were Supreme Overlord of the Galaxy, I would eat chocolate cupcakes every day.
We also use the subjunctive to make suggestions, recommendations, and demands:
- I suggested that we remove the curdled-blood soup from the menu.
- Vlad insisted that the soup remain on the menu.
- I demanded that the ghouls stop putting their fingers in the soup.
Even though we’re using different verbs, the underlying driver in these three examples is a wish for a certain outcome.
So there you have it — the moodiness of English. If you’d like to learn more about the subjunctive, including some of its history, here’s a good article to get you started: