Most people know that English has tenses and some may know that it has voices (like passive and active voice, discussed in my previous post), but few know that English actually has moods as well. Tenses tell us when a verb was completed, voices indicate whether the focus of a sentence should be the subject or the direct object, and moods describe how an idea is being expressed. There are four major types of moods, although there many different specific moods that fall under the subjunctive mood. However, as there are so many, they deserve their own blog post.
Now, some consider infinitives to be a mood. I think of them more as the base form of a verb, since infinitives tend to be what you base any verb conjugating on in other languages. I mostly am mentioning them here because they are an important part of language, sometimes considered a mood, and are fairly easy to explain.
An infinitive is the base form of a verb and usually looks like this, “to kick”, “to run”, “to love”, and “to kill”. An infinitive is just an unmodified verb with the word “to” in front of it. However, an infinitive is never really used as the main verb of a sentence. For instance:
Sally wanted to kick the ball.
In this sentence, Sally is the subject, “wanted” is the verb, “to kick” is the infinitive, and the ball is the direct object. The verb is what Sally is actually doing, the infinitive is being used like an adverb in this context because it modifies the verb. Infinitives can also be used as nouns and subjects depending on the context, not to mention adjectives.
The indicative mood is the mood of statements. Anything a person just states, that isn’t a question, command, and isn’t just a wish, doubt, or possibility, is indicative. All of the following sentences are indicative:
I have a cat.
This is my friend, Jaime.
I’m going to the gym later.
Jessica is ten years old.
All of these sentences are just statements, so they’re indicative in mood.
The interrogative mood is the mood of questions. Any question that is asked is of the interrogative mood, although sometimes people consider the interrogative mood to actually be a part of the indicative mood. An easy way to remember this mood’s name is that “interrogative” has the same root as “interrogation”, and people ask a lot of questions in an interrogation. All of the following sentences are interrogative:
Can I have the book?
How old are you?
How is Aunt Jen doing?
Where are you?
Any sort of question that is asked is interrogative, which makes it one of the easiest moods to recognize.
The imperative mood is the mood of command. In fact, the word even comes from the Latin word imperator, which means “commander”. Whenever someone gives a command, the mood is imperative. For instance, all of the following are imperative:
Get in the car.
Feed the dog.
Please take me to the library.
They all are commands, they all tell someone to do something. Yes, “help me” beseeches more than commands, but it’s still telling someone to do something. Even “please take me to the library” is imperative. Because, even though it’s polite, it’s still a command.
The subjunctive mood is anything that expresses a wish or doubt. It talks about possibilities, not things that are set in stone. For example:
Sally wished she could go to the amusement park with James.
I should do my homework.
Molly should drive us to the store.
I suggest that you not electrocute yourself, Bob.
All of those sentences are wishes and doubts. They’re all based on possibilities, not things that have already been decided. Subjunctive is by far the most complicated mood, and has a varying number of subcategories. However, I’ll discuss those in a different post.