Moods Overview

Moods are a grammatical feature of verbs used to convey the intention of the speaker. There are three moods in Old English, the indicative, used when the speaker is making a statement, the imperative, used when giving a command, and the subjunctive, used when expressing a wish, an outcome conditional on other events, reporting something that was said, and statements contrary to facts. Verbs in Old English are inflected in order to show their mood. For example, examine the verb 'cuman - to come' in the sentences below.

Hie
Subject
Pronoun
cumaþ
Indicative
Plural
to
Prep.
 
me
Indirect
Object

Gif
Conj.
 
hie
Subject
Pronoun
to
Prep.
 
me
Indirect
Object
cumen
Subjunctive
Plural

Cum
Imperative
Singular
to
Prep.
 
me!
Indirect
Object

Indicative

The normal mood of verbs is the indicative. The indicative mood is used for statements and questions. For example, 'Hwæt lærest þu on þæm minstere? - What do you teach in the monastery?' and 'We læraþ eald Englisc on þæm minstere⁠ - We teach Old English in the monastery'. The indicative has different inflections for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and plural in both the present and the past tense. The majority of Old English verbs will be in this mood, just as they are in modern English.

Hwæt
Interogative
Pronoun
lærest
Indicative
Verb
þu
Subject
Pronoun
on
Prep.
 
þæm
Demonstrative
Pronoun
minstere?
Indirect
Object

We
Subject
Pronoun
læraþ
Indicative
Verb
eald
Adverb
 
Englisc
Direct
Object
on
Prep.
 
þæm
Demonstrative
Pronoun
minstere
Indirect
Object

Imperative

When making a command or giving an order, the imperative form of the verb is used. There is one form when commanding an individual and one when commanding a group. The singular command is usually indentical to the infinitive of the verb with the -an ending removed. The plural command is usually identical to the present plural form of the verb. For example, examine the verb 'niman - to take' in the following sentences: 'Wið heafodwærc nim rudan ond wermod - For headaches, take rue and wormwood' and 'Nimað þis gold ond bicgað eow landare - Take this gold and buy your property'.

Wið
Prep.
 
heafodwærc
Indirect
Object
nim
Imperative
Verb
rudan
Direct
Object
ond
Conj.
 
wermod
Direct
Object

Nimað
Imperative
Verb
þis
Demon.
Pronoun
gold
Direct
Object
ond
Conj.
 
bicgað
Indicative
Verb
eow
Personal
Pronoun
landare
Direct
Object

The imperative verb usually starts the sentence or clause and is not paired with a subject noun or pronoun. It is commonly seen in direct speech and instructional writing such as leechbooks.

Subjunctive

The subjunctive mood is used to express desires, outcomes conditional on other events, and statements contrary to facts. Subjunctive forms are rarer in modern English, but can be seen preserved in examples like, 'I wish I were a rich man' as opposed to 'I wish I was' or 'We suggest he be released' as opposed to 'We suggest he is released'.

In Old English subjunctives verb forms are more common, particularly after verbs of command or desire; calls to preform an action; or expressions which have doubt or are reported second hand. For example, 'Ne recce ic hwæt hie demen - Nor do I care what they might judge' and 'Ic wolde helpan þæs þe þær unscyldig wære - I wished to help whoever was not guilty'.

Ne
Adverb
 
recce
Singular
Subjunctive
ic
Subject
Pronoun
hwæt
Interrogative
Pronoun
hie
Subject
Pronoun
demen
Plural
Subjunctive

Ic
Subject
Pronoun
wolde
Irregular
Verb
helpan
Infinitive
Verb
þæs þe þær
Relative
Pronoun
unscyldig
Adjective
 
wære
Singular
Subjunctive

Singular subjunctives take the root of the verb (the infinitive without the -an ending) and add an -e while plural subjunctives add -en. So 'deman - to judge' becomes 'deme' in the subjunctive singular and 'demen' in the subjunctive plural. The past and present forms are identical.

Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic eom Ic wæs
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu eart Þu wære
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo is He/Hit/Heo wæs
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie sind We/Ge/Hie wæron
Imperative Singular Wes -
Imperative Plural Wesaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Sie Wære
Subjunctive Plural Sien Wæren
Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic drince Ic dranc
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu drincst Þu drunce
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo drincþ He/Hit/Heo dranc
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie drincaþ We/Ge/Hie druncon
Imperative Singular Drinc -
Imperative Plural Drincaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Drince Drincen
Subjunctive Plural Drunce Druncen
Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic helpe Ic healp
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu hilpst Þu helpe
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo hilpþ He/Hit/Heo healp
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie helpaþ We/Ge/Hie hulpon
Imperative Singular Help -
Imperative Plural Helpaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Helpe Helpen
Subjunctive Plural Hulpe Hulpen
Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic lufie Ic lufode
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu lufast Þu lufodest
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo lufaþ He/Hit/Heo lufode
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie lufiaþ We/Ge/Hie lufodon
Imperative Singular Lufa -
Imperative Plural Lufiaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Lufie Lufode
Subjunctive Plural Lufien Lofoden
Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic hæbbe Ic hæfde
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu hæfst Þu hæfdest
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo hæfþ He/Hit/Heo hæfde
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie habbaþ We/Ge/Hie hæfdon
Imperative Singular Hafa -
Imperative Plural Habbaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Hæbbe Hæfde
Subjunctive Plural Hæbben Hæfden
Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic ga Ic eode
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu gæst Þu eodest
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo gæþ He/Hit/Heo eode
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie gaþ We/Ge/Hie eodon
Imperative Singular Ga -
Imperative plural Gaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Ga Eode
Subjunctive Plural Gan Eoden
Present Tense Past Tense
Indicative 1st Person Singular Ic cume Ic com
Indicative 2nd Person Singular Þu cymest Þu come
Indicative 3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo cymeþ He/Hit/Heo com
Indicative Plural We/Ge/Hie cumaþ We/Ge/Hie comon
Imperative Singular Cum -
Imperative plural Cumaþ -
Subjunctive Singular Cume Come
Subjunctive Plural Cumen Comen

Once you are comfortable with the idea of moods, continue on to the next module by clicking the link below.

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