What are the Three Moods of Verbs?

What is the grammatical mood?

The grammatical mood is a verb’s form to show how we should understand it. To react to what we are hearing or reading, we must know why a particular verb has been used. Is it a command? Is it a wish? Or is it a statement or opinion?

Understanding how to use the common three moods of verbs is a key part of communication in English – and most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it! This Wiki will break down the meanings of the most common three moods of verbs while pointing you to some helpful resources for teaching these moods to your students.

The Three Moods of Verbs

The three moods of verbs that we commonly use are the imperative, subjunctive, and indicative moods. There are other kinds, too, such as conditional verbs, which are ‘if’ statements that highlight if something may or may not happen – but these three form the basis of most sentences and are useful to focus on while teaching.

Indicative Mood

An indicative mood is used to communicate a fact or statement. Indicative verbs can stand alone to form a sentence when matched with a subject and object, like in the sentence ‘We are teachers.’ An indicative verb can deny a statement by stating that something is false. For example:

  • Dolphins are great swimmers.
  • Dolphins are not land animals.
  • am a teacher.
  • sing terribly.

The highlighted words are indicative verbs. Try this poster on relating verbs for more useful tips on using terms like am, are, be, and so on. It’s a handy way to teach learners about linking words before you teach them about the moods each verb uses.

It’s also important to note that the interrogative mood (when a verb is used to form a question) is sometimes separated from this indicative mood, but many of the verb forms are the same.

Subjunctive Mood

If imperative verbs deal with real things like statements, facts, and personal opinions, then subjunctive verbs deal with imaginary things like wishes, possibilities, and guesses.

It’s an unusual verb because it doesn’t describe any particular past or present tense. However, it is one reason it’s important to learn about the three moods of verbs, as it helps us describe other situations within language.

It’s also now less commonly used in modern English, appearing mostly in formal communication and writing. One common feature of the subjunctive mood is changing the word ‘was’ to ‘were,’ like in the following examples:

The subjunctive mood is useful if we want to show that the situation we describe isn’t likely to happen. It’s also an easy change to make because the subject (he/she/it/they) stays the same even if we change the mood!

Imperative Mood

We all know that verbs are thought of as ‘doing words,’ and the imperative mood is a kind of verb that tells us to do something. It is a command or instruction often found at the start of a sentence because the subject is the person being spoken to. Some common examples of imperative verbs include:

  • Add the flour to the bowl.
  • Go to the shops.
  • Say Cheese!
  • Please come again!

These kinds of verbs are meant to be snappy and clear, so they are sometimes called bossy verbs, which might help your class remember their use.

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