The 3 Moods: Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive

3 Types of Moods in English

What is a ‘mood’?

The Enlish langauge has three moods: indicative, imperative and subjunctive. Each mood refers to a verb which tells us the mode or manner in  which an action has taken place.

1. Indicative Mood:

The Indicative mood is probably the most used or recognised one out of the three because it indicates the 12 tenses of the English language. It also shows subject-verb agreement.

2. Imeprative Mood:

The imperative mood is also easily recognised and is most commonly assocated with giving commands. The imperative mood is distinct because it does not need or use a subject. For instance: “Sit down”; “Take one tablet three times a day”; “Be quiet” etc

It is important to remeber that the imperative mood can be used on three occassions:

  • Direct Commands
  • Direct Requests
  • Direct Suggestions

3. Subjunctive Mood:

This is similar to the imperative mood were there are three occassions in which we can use the subjunctive mood.

  • Indirect speech (a.k.a. Reported Speech)
  • Impossible situations ( conditional sentences)
  • Old proverbial English

Lets look at examples of the first situation, indirect speech. Indirect speech consits of three facets: indirect speech, indirect commands and indirect requestion.

3a) Indirect Speech:

To create indirect speech you can follow this simple formula:

S + V + that clause

The verb in the sentence will indicate the mood. For example: “She said that she is hungry”

The improtant verb is ‘said’, it tells us that the writer is using the past tense but most importantly shows us that indirect speech in being used. Note that the example uses the ‘be’ verb ‘is’ instead of ‘was’. The reason for this is that the statement is a fact that at the time of speaking is still true. Using the verb ‘was’ would indicate that the situation has changed and that at one point the person who was hungry  is possibility that they  no longer so.

             Indirect Commands:

Indirect commands follow the simple patter of V+ that clause

For example: The drill Sergeant ordered that his troops stand in formation.

             Indirect requests:

Look at the following examples of requests. The verb varies, there are also examples of the passive voice which can be used as a more academic example.

For example: Amnesty International requested that Syrian government forces seize firing on civilians.

For example: He suggested that she go and meet him at the bar. [Note that I wrote ‘she go’ instead of ‘she goes. This is done because we are not using the indicative mood, we are using the subjunctive mood which means the subject and the verb DO NOT have to agree.

For example: It was requested by the CEO that the mid-term reports be edited.

For example: It was recommended that the changes to the Education policy be immediately implemented under the new National government.



Here is an example that has an error in it. See if you can spot the mistake and find the reason why?

Example: It is said that she be at the meeting

Question: Is this sentence using indirect commands, requests or suggestions?

Answer: Not it is not because it is using reported speech a.k.a the indicative mood. For this reason the ‘be’ verb should be taken out.


3b) Impossible situations

To understand what we mean by impossible situations is simple. Impossible situations refers to sentences which are created by using conditionals.

For example: If I was you, I would by the car.

Please note: I was= subject verb agreement which means the indicative mood is being used. However, we can also write ‘I were’ which would indicate the use of the subjunctive mood. It is common in English to use both examples, that said, American speakers of English tend to prefer the subjunctive mood.

3c) Old proverbial English

As the name suggest this refers to English that is not commonly used nowadays. Examples of this type of language can be found in the Bible or in great literary works like Shakespears.

Here are some examples:

“Peace be with you.”

“May God be with you”





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