What Are Grammatical Moods In Writing And How To Use Them

What Are Grammatical Moods

Grammatical moods indicate the purpose of a sentence by using specific verb forms.

Contrary to what you might think, a mood in grammar has nothing to do with emotions, feelings, or sentiments.

Moods define a phrase’s intent, including functions such as facts, commands, doubts, uncertainties, or conditions.

Understanding how to use these choices can help improve the clarity and purpose of your writing.

The Five major grammatical moods in English

Every sentence you write has a purpose.

Therefore, each one contains a verb form that expresses a specific mood.

English grammar has five major moods: imperative, indicative, interrogative, conditional, and subjunctive.

There are also many minor moods. Let’s look at how they work.


The imperative mood

When we use this form, it indicates a command, instruction, or request.

The verb is usually at the beginning of a sentence in the bare infinitive form without to, such as run, jump or drive.

Close the window; it’s cold.

Prepare a list of what we need.

Take the first turn left.


The indicative mood

It is, without a doubt, the most common mood in grammar, and you can use it in all tenses.

We use the indicative to say that something or an action is a fact.

Another use is to express an opinion.

The construction is a standard subject-verb phrase.

Mount Everest is 29,031 feet, or 8,848 meters high.

Paul runs every morning.

I think too much red meat is bad for your health.


The interrogative mood

Logically, this mood is related to asking questions or expressing an element of uncertainty.

The form uses the verb to be, or with other verbs, an auxiliary or helping verb to form a question.

Do you know when they are arriving?

What time is the next train?

Where did you live when you were a child?


The conditional mood

Simple conditional statements use a modal verb to indicate the degree of the condition.

In most cases, the conjunction if introduces the conditional clause.

You should see your doctor if you are feeling unwell.

If you got a dog, what breed would you choose?

Where could I stay if I visited you? 


The subjunctive mood

When you use the subjunctive mood, you can express a range of possibilities.

They can include a demand, a doubt, a wish, or a hypothetical situation.

The present subjunctive uses the second-person plural verb for all subjects. But for the verb to be, it uses the infinitive be or were instead of is and was.

I insisted that he be on time for our weekly meetings.

If I were in that situation, I’d complain to my manager.

It is vital that the government provide free education for children.

It is important that he look his best for his job interview.


Minor moods

The following moods occur less frequently but are still useful.


Tag declarative 

This mood adds a tag, such as a question tag, to a declarative sentence.

You’ll be going to the wedding, won’t you?

Oh please, leave it to me, will you?

He’s not married, is he?



Usually, a forceful expression that ends with an exclamation mark.

I’m just not going to do it!

What a feast!

Forget it, no way!



This mood is used occasionally in questions to offer a limited choice.

Do you want a hamburger or a hotdog?

Are you working on Saturday or Sunday?

Would you like coffee, tea, or a soft drink?



The optative mood is used with many fixed expressions of wishes, hopes, or desires.

They often start with may or let.

May you live a long and happy life.

Let it be.

Long live the king.



You probably don’t think about grammatical moods when you are writing.

But understanding the basics can help you fine-tune sentences from time to time.

You don’t need to be an expert by any means.

However, when you are editing or proofreading a text, analyzing the mood might give you new ideas about how to rewrite some sentences.

Most of them are very easy to use.

However, the subjunctive mood is quite complex and is one that can take some practice.


Related reading: How To Use Tone In Writing

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