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Grammatical mood

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Many languages have the concept of grammatical mood, which describes the relation of the verb to reality or intent in speaking. Many languages express distinctions of mood by changing (inflecting) the form of the verb. Because Modern English does not have all of the moods described below and has a very simplified system of verb inflection as well, it is not straightforward to explain the moods in this language. Note too that the exact sense of the moods differ from language to language.

Possible moods include indicative, imperative, subjunctive, injunctive, negative and optative. There are other moods too. Some Uralic Samoyedic lnaguages have over ten moods.

Grammatical mood should not be confused with grammatical case.

Table of contents

Indicative Mood

The indicative mood express facts and opinions. It is the most commonly used mood and is found in all languages. Example: "Paul is reading".

Imperative Mood

The imperative mood expresses commands, direct requests, prohibitions. In many circumstances, directly using the imperative mood seems blunt or even rude, so use with care. Example: "Paul, read that book".

Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood has several uses in dependent clauses. Examples include discussing hypothetical or unlikely events, expressing opinions or emotions, or making polite requests (the exact scope is language-specific). It is also called the conditional mood. A subjunctive mood exists in English but many native English speakers have not mastered it. Example: "I suggested that Paul read the book". Paul is not in fact reading the book. Contrast this with the sentence "Paul reads the book", where the verb read has the third person singular ending.

The subjunctive mood figures prominently in the grammar of the Romance languages, which require this mood for certain types of dependent clauses. This point commonly causes difficulty for English speakers learning these languages.

Negative Mood

The negative mood expresses a negated action. In most languages, this is not distinct mood; negativity is expressed by adding a particle before (as in Russian), after (as in archaic or dialectic English: "Thou remembrest not?"), or both (as in French or Afrikaans: "Je ne sais pas.".) Standard English brings in a helper verb, to do usually, and then adds not after it: "I did not go there".

Optative Mood

The optative mood expresses hopes or wishes and has other uses that may overlap with the subjunctive mood. Few languages have an optative as a distinct mood; Ancient Greek and Sanskrit are two that do. Example: an ancient Greek might say "Would that Paul would read more!" with the words would that expressed by the placing the verb read in the optative mood.

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