Introduction to Mood

In grammar, mood refers to a verb form which indicates whether the verb expresses a fact (the indicative mood), a command (the imperative mood), or possibility (the subjunctive mood). While in modern English we can distinguish moods using verbal phrases, for example, 'Go to bed!', in Old English there are different verb forms to express this mood.

Indicative Mood

The basic mood of verbs is referred to as the indicative, and all verbs you've come across so far have been in this mood. The indicative mood is often defined as a statement of fact, but this does not necessarily mean that a statement is 'true', only that it is presented as a known fact. This mood includes declarative statements such as 'that horse is brown', opinions such as 'I think that horse is beautiful' and questions such as 'What is that horse's name?'.

Imperative Mood

Commands are always in the imperative mood. The only difference between Old English and modern English is that the imperative in Old English is inflected according to number. So, depending on whether you are commanding an individual or a group, the form of the verb is different.

Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive is used in Old English to describe hypothetical situations. For example, if someone says 'I will go for a walk if it is sunny', they are not stating a fact but something that might happen and which is conditional on something else happening. Unlike in modern English, where the subjunctive form is always the base of the verb irrespective of tense or number, in Old English the subjunctive has a singular and plural form for both the present and past tense.

We will explore the Imperative and Subjunctive moods and their effect on verbs in more detail in the following topics.

Return to Strong Verbs Overview Continue to Imperative Mood