Verb Moods (Types and Examples)

English verbs have four moods:

  1. Indicative Mood
  2. Imperative Mood
  3. Subjunctive Mood
  4. Infinitive Mood

Verb Mood Definition: Mood is the form of the verb that shows the mode or manner in which a thought is expressed. Basically verb moods are classification that indicates the attitude of the speaker.

Verb Moods Infographic

The types of English verb moods are discussed here one by one.

1. Indicative Verb Mood

It expresses an assertion, denial, or a question. Most sentences in English are in the indicative mood. It simply states a fact of some sort, or describes what happens, or gives details about the reality.

Examples

  • Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas.
  • Ostriches cannot fly.
  • Have you finished your homework?
  • A cat sits on the stove.

2. Imperative Verb Mood

It expresses command, prohibition, entreaty, or advice. One marker(symbol) of the imperative is that frequently the subject does not appear in the sentence, but is only implied. 

Example

  • Don’t smoke in this building.
  • Be careful!
  • Don’t drown that puppy!
  • (You) Give me back my money.

Although imperative verbs are often referred to as commands, the imperative mood also occurs in sentences that express the following situations.

Imperative Usage Table

Imperative TypeExamples
Give commands Be Quiet!
Make requests Open the window please.
Grant or deny permission Go to the movie if you want.
Make offersCome to my part!
ApologizeExcuse me.
Well wishingHave a good day!

3. Subjunctive Verb Mood

It expresses doubt or something contrary to fact. The subjunctive moods indicate a hypothetical state, a state contrary to reality such as wish, desire or something imaginary. It is harder to explain the subjunctive.

For example, “If I see him, I will tell him.”

The verb ‘may’ can be used to express a wish. For example,

  • May you have many more birthdays.
  • May you live long and prosper.

The verb ‘were’ can also indicate the use of subjunctive.

For example, 

  • If I were you, I wouldn’t keep driving more on those tires.
  • I he were governor, we’d be in better fiscal shape.

4. Infinitive Verb Mood

It expresses an action or state without reference to any subject. It can be a source of sentence fragments when the writer miserly thinks the infinitive form is a fully functioning verb.

When we speak of the English infinitive, we usually mean the basic form the verb with ‘to’ in front of it, for example, ‘to go’, ‘to speak’ etc.

Verbs said to be in the infinitive mood can include participle forms ending in ‘-ed’  and ‘-ing’. Verbs in the infinitive moods are not being used as verbs, but as other parts of speech.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. 

Here,  ‘to err’ and ‘to forgive’ are used as nouns.

Now we see another example, “He is a man to be admired.”

In this example, ‘to be admired’ is an adjective, the equivalent of admirable. It describes the noun ‘man’.

Minor Moods

In addition to above discussed moods, there are minor moods in English which are stated here with the help of examples.

  • Tag declarative: You have been drinking again, haven’t you.
  • Tag imperative: Leave the room, will you!
  • Pseudo-imperative: Move or I’ll shoot.
  • Alternative questions: Does John resemble his father or his mother? With rising intonation on father and falling intonation on mother.
  • Exclamative: What a pleasant day!
  • Optative: “One more” sentence!

The distinction between major and minor moods in English is not clear but minor moods are restricted in their efficiency, unimportant to communication, and low in their frequency of occurrence.