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The Essentials of Writing

The Hamilton College Style Sheet

Essentials of English Usage

Mood ("m")

The mood of a statement is the way the speaker or writer intends it to be interpreted.  Mood is indicated by forms of verbs.  To be interpreted as you intend, make sure that you

Use the proper verb form to indicate the mood of your statement.

 There are three moods in English:

 1. The indicative mood: a declarative statement or a question.

 a) Do you know today's reading assignment?
 b) I know today's reading assignment.

 2. The imperative mood: a command or request.

 a) Close the door.
 b) Please bring me a pencil.

3. The subjunctive mood: a condition contrary to fact, a supposition, a hypothesis, or a recommendation.

a) I recommend that we purchase a new computer.
b) If I were you, I would not wear those shoes in this weather.
c) If he had looked both ways, he would not have been hit by a car.

In formal writing, do not use the verb forms of the subjunctive to indicate continuous past action.  Use the simple past tense instead.

Incorrect: Each year for a decade, the legislature would pass a death penalty bill, and each year the governor would veto it.

Correct: Each year for a decade, the legislature passed a death penalty bill, and each year the governor vetoed it.

See also Tense ("t") and Verb Tense.