Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Moods - a Brief Introduction

The Three Moods

As well as tense (past, present, future and so on), and voice (active and passive) verbs have different moods. There are three moods: Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive.

1. Indicative Mood.

Indicative mood

This is the mood that we use nearly all the time. Whenever we talk about something that is happening, or something that exists, or what we did on Friday night, or what we think is wrong with the next door people’s dog, anything at all really, we use the indicative mood. It’s called that because we are indicating stuff when we use it.

For example:

The cat sat on the mat.

The tense is past tense (“sat”), because we are talking about something that has already happened. The mood is indicative; we are speaking of something we know to have happened.

The cat is sitting on the mat.

Here we are speaking of something that is happening now. It is still indicative, because we are making an observation of a fact. However, it is now present tense (“is sitting”).

The cat will sit on the mat.

Here we are speaking of something that we know or believe will happen in the future (“will sit”). Of course it isn’t observed fact, but it’s still indicative mood, because it’s not dependent on anything - it’s a flatly declarative statement.

2. Imperative Mood.

Imperative Mood, second person

Imperative Mood is the one we use when we give orders, make requests and so on. Prayer, too, is imperative. Any time you express a direct request it is imperative. It is more common than you may realise; most recipes and technical instructions are in imperative mood.

Most technical instructions are in imperative mood

For example:

“Please close the door.”
This sentence is in Imperative Mood, as it makes a request.

The Imperative Mood is only used in the present tense. It is generally used in second person, but may occasionally be used in the first person:

“Let’s go shopping.”
"May I be struck down if I lie."

Or, more rarely nowadays, in the third person:

Imperative mood, third person.
Your uncle, may he rot in hell, forgot to put out the milk bottles again.

Your aunts, may they live forever, are saintly women.

Or, perhaps most famously, Let There Be Light.

4. Subjunctive Mood.

"What if I told you"

The Subjunctive Mood is used to talk about states of affairs that don’t actually exist. Hypothetical statements, for instance, are often made in the subjunctive.
For example:

“If that dog were really well trained, he would come when he was called.”

See how instead of “was”, the second person singular becomes “were” in the subjunctive. Nowadays, people often say “if he was”, however this is incorrect grammar and should not be contemplated. Notice, also, how the conditional part of the sentence (“he would come when he was called”) goes into the past tense, even though we are talking about a present situation.

In the past tense, the subjunctive looks like this:

“If that dog had been really well trained, he would have come when he was called.”

Here again, notice how the verbs appear to be one tense back from the one we are in (“had been”, “would “have”). In the subjunctive mood, the inflexion of the verb 'to be' is quite easy, because we always use 'were' in the present tense and 'had been' in the past tense.

With other verbs, again the tense appears as if it had dropped back one slot:

"If I liked radishes, I would order some for myself." (present tense)

"If he had known about the curfew, he would have come home early." (past tense)

Subjunctive mood is also used with certain verbs that denote requests, advice, recommendations, and that kind of thing. Sentences where 'should' is appropriate tend to indicate the use of the subjunctive in this situation. The 'should' is optional, and may be used or admitted in sentences such as:

1. The president suggested that Mexico (should) pay for the wall

2. It is imperative that you bring him to the clinic as quickly as possible.

3. The decorator recommended that I (should) paint everything white.

Note that although the main verbs in sentences 1 and 3 are in the past tense, the subjunctive indirect objects appear to be in present tense. This will always be the case, no matter what the tense of the main verb. 

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