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16.6 Managing Mood

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand imperative, indicative, and subjunctive verb moods.
  2. Revise passages with inconsistent verb moods.
  3. Write passages using uniform verb mood.

The mood of a verb can be imperativeSentence format in which the subject is understood to be the reader and the sentence gives a command, makes a request, or gives advice., indicativeSentence format that presents statements, facts, opinions, and questions., or subjunctiveSentence format using base form of present tense verbs, simple past form for past tense verbs, and “were” for all forms of the verb “to be” to relay wishes, recommendations, doubts, and contrary-to statements.. Although those three words might make mood sound somewhat complicated, in reality you are likely quite familiar with the different moods. Study this table for clarification.

Verb Moods Explanations Examples

The subject is understood to be the reader and is not given in the sentence.

Imperative sentences include the following:

  • Commands
  • Requests
  • Advice
  • Control your partying when you are in college.
  • Please keep your future in mind as you make choices.
  • Limit partying to the weekends so you will be more likely to find success as a college student.
Indicative (or declarative)

Indicative sentences include the following:

  • Statements
  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Questions
  • During my first year in college, I was more focused on having fun with my friends than on studying.
  • About one-third of eighteen-year-old college freshmen drop out within their first year of college.
  • Although some colleges try to control your behavior with rules, you need to figure out for yourself how to successfully balance your class work and your personal life.
  • Do you think it helps to have midnight curfews for students who live in dormitories?

Present-tense verbs remain in the base form rather than changing to match the number or person of the subject. Past-tense verbs are the same as simple past tense.

Exception: The verb “to be” uses “were” in all situations.

Subjunctive sentences include the following:

  • Wishes
  • Recommendations
  • Doubts
  • Contrary-to statements
  • [present tense] It is important that I be [NOT am] focused on doing homework before partying.
  • [present tense] I suggest a student work [NOT student works] on assignments every Friday afternoon.
  • [past tense] If I were [NOT was] him, I’d have stayed at the library with my laptop for a few hours.
  • [past tense] If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Problems with mood occur when the mood shifts within a sentence, as shown in the following table. In the table, the revisions were all made to match the mood that the sentence initially used. You could also choose to make different revisions that are equally acceptable.

Verb Moods Problem Shifts Revisions
Started with imperative and switched to subjunctive Control your schedule, and I’d choose the number of hours I need for homework before talking to anyone about weekend plans. Control your schedule and choose the number of hours you need for homework before talking to anyone about weekend plans.
Started with indicative and switched to imperative People don’t think for themselves and stop being so wishy-washy. Think for yourself and stop being so wishy-washy.
Started with subjunctive and switched to imperative It matters that you be in charge of your success and you should stop blaming others. It matters that you be in charge of your success and stop blaming others.

Key Takeaways

  • Verb moods include imperative, indicative, and subjunctive.
  • Inconsistent verb moods can make text confusing.
  • Avoid using multiple verb moods within a single passage.


  1. The following passage has inconsistent verb moods. Identify the existing verb moods as imperative, indicative, and/or imperative. Then revise the passage so that it has consistent verb moods.

    Don’t go to the party on Friday night. If I were you, I’d spend Friday in the library and go to the big party on Saturday. Physics majors need to stay focused.

  2. Write three sentences using each of these verb moods in one of the sentences: imperative, indicative, subjunctive.
  3. Write a passage with at least three sentences. Use a consistent verb mood throughout the passage.