English Grammar Part 9: Verbs, The Three Moods

Level: Basic
Time taken to Complete: 200 minutes


English is a complicated language. It’s rather annoyingly difficult in many respects, and somewhat simplified in others. Many people have difficulty with English spelling. The grammar has its ups and downs, but here is some help.  This series is for those who would like to brush up on or learn about grammar and grammar terminology.

There are three moods in the English language (or so they are called such).  There are Indicative, Subjunctive, and Imperative.  So far all of the activies have described things Indicative.  This is all the statements which are most common in English.  All the statements in this activity so far have been Indicative.

Imperative is next.  This is also called the command form.  This is because the verb is telling a person to do the action.  Simple statements such as, “Go away,” or “Shut your mouth,” to more complicated things such as, “Move the chair over there, please,” or “Write a note to your senator,” are all Imperative.  It has 2 forms in English, the second person form and the first person plural form.  The first one is formed by taking the root of the verb.  The second is formed by added the phrase “Let’s” or “Let us” in front of the verb form.  The only very irregular one is the verb to be.  That would be, “Be quiet,” or “Be ready.”  The imperative is not very complicated in the English language.  In some British dialects, or so I’ve heard, they will use the verb to do in both positive and negative emphatic imperatives (not all of them).  So then you get something like, “Oh, do have something to drink,” alongside, “Don’t go into the woods.”  American dialects only use the negative form in those cases.

Subjunctive is a different creature completely.  It’s dying in many dialects of Spoken English, (I’ve noticed this in Americans at least).  For most I’ve encountered, sentences like, “If I were king,” and “If I was king,” are both acceptable.  The former is actually considered “correct” English (whatever that means). It is used in sentences like, “I wish it were different,” “It is important that he go to school,” “If John were dead, it would not be nice.”  The other issue is that would and could usually take over for the subjunctive in cases of hypothetical situations.  I personally might considered would to count for subjunctive, and could for conditional, but most grammarians would fit it in the indicative category.

These are the three moods, though there is more literature on each if one is interested.