Using Verb Moods
The indicative mood is the most common and is used to express facts and opinions or to make inquiries. Most of the statements you make or you read will be in the indicative mood.
The highlighted verbs in the following sentences are all in the indicative mood:
- Joe picks up the boxes.
- The german shepherd fetches the stick.
- Charles closes the window.
The highlighted verbs in the following sentences are all in the imperative mood:
- Pick up those boxes.
- Close the window.
The subjunctive mood has almost disappeared from the language and is thus more difficult to use correctly than either the indicative mood or the imperative mood. The subjunctive mood rarely appears in everyday conversation or writing and is used in a set of specific circumstances.
- present subjunctive: "paint"
- present subjunctive: "walk"
- present subjunctive: "think"
- present subjunctive: "be"
Except for the verb "be," the past tense subjunctive is indistinguishable in form from the past tense indicative. The past tense subjunctive of "be" is "were."
- past subjunctive: "painted"
- past subjunctive: "walked"
- past subjunctive: "thought"
- past subjunctive: "were"
The subjunctive is found in a handful of traditional circumstances. For example, in the sentence "God save the Queen," the verb "save" is in the subjunctive mood. Similarly, in the sentence "Heaven forbid," the verb forbid is in the subjunctive mood.
The subjunctive is usually found in complex sentences. The subjunctive mood is used in dependent clauses to express unreal conditions and in dependent clauses following verbs of wishing or requesting.
The subjunctive mood is used in a dependent clause attached to an independent clause that uses a verb such as "ask," "command," "demand," "insist," "order," "recommend," "require," "suggest," or "wish."
The subjunctive mood is also used in a dependent clause attached to an independent clause that uses an adjective that expresses urgency (such as "crucial," "essential," "important," "imperative," "necessary," or "urgent").
Each of the highlighted verbs in the following sentences is in the subjunctive mood.
- It is urgent that Harraway attend Monday's meeting.
- The Member of Parliament demanded that the Minister explain the effects of the bill on the environment.
- The sergeant ordered that Calvin scrub the walls of the mess hall.
- We suggest that Mr. Beatty move the car out of the no parking zone.
- The committee recommended that the bill be passed immediately.
- If Canada were a tropical country, we would be able to grow pineapples in our backyards.
- If he were more generous, he would not have chased the canvassers away from his door.
- I wish that this book were still in print.
- If the council members were interested in stopping street prostitution, they would urge the police to pursue customers more vigorously than they pursue the prostitutes.
Written by Heather MacFadyen