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What Are Verb Moods?

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  • Written By: Michael Smathers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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In the English language, there are four types of verb moods. The mood of a verb indicates the way it is used in a sentence, and because verbs are words of action, the mood of a verb can affect the meaning of the entire sentence, as well as its grammatical construction. The four verb moods in the English language are the subjunctive mood, the indicative mood, the infinitive mood and the imperative mood. Each of these moods has a different purpose and meaning.

The subjunctive mood of a verb is used when the verb expresses a hypothetical action or another circumstance that is presently untrue. Frequently, helping verbs indicate a subjunctive mood, and this verb mood determines whether "was" or "were" should precede the verb. For example, in the sentence, "If I were a rich man, I'd buy a house in London town," the word "were" is correct in the subjunctive mood. "Would," "could" and "should" also indicate the subjunctive mood.

The second of the verb moods is the indicative mood, which represents a positive or definite condition. It is opposite of the subjunctive mood. The indicative mood of a verb can exist as a question as well as a statement. An example of a question with an indicative verb is, "Who has taken out the garbage today?" The verb can be of any tense, as long as it describes an actual occurrence or event.

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Third is the infinitive mood. This is the verb in its basic form without any conjugations to link it to a subject. English verbs in the infinitive are in the present perfect form preceded by the word "to." In some instances, the infinitive verb phrase can be used as a verb object. For example, in the sentence, "I want to ride my bicycle," the verb phrase "to ride," is the object of "I want."

The last of the four verb moods is the imperative mood. This is used when the speaker wants to make a direct request or command, and is in the present or future tense. The sentences "Take those books back to the library," or "You will report to the office at ten o'clock" are examples that make use of the imperative verb mood.

Understanding the proper use of these four verb moods aids English speakers in choosing the correct sentence syntax and structure. Each verb mood is commonly associated with a tense and a function. Using the incorrect mood of a verb can make the sentence sound awkward.

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