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What Is the Indicative Mood?

By Ken Black
Updated May 23, 2024
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The indicative mood is the most commonly-used verb mood, and is used to express thoughts and opinions, provide facts, or to ask questions. It is especially common in first-person speech, and the tenses of the verb forms take their traditional endings, at least in English. This mood, along with imperative mood and the subjunctive mood, comprise the three major verb moods in the English language.

Understanding the indicative mood is relatively easy. For example, take the simple sentence, "He goes to the store." The sentence is written in this mood. The verb form, in this case, took the present tense, but the mood would have been the same even if the sentence had been written in the past tense. Tenses do not generally indicate mood.

While it is not always true, often the length of the sentences can provide the reader with a clue as to what mood is being used if the verb form is not recognized. Those sentences written in the indicative mood are generally more straightforward, and therefore tend to be shorter than some sentences in other moods. The subjunctive mood, for example, often includes the use of a dependent clause, which can make sentences much longer.

When asking a question, the indicative mood is generally used when seeking clarifications of fact. For example, consider the sentence, "How many countries are there?" In that case, the speaker is asking for a specific fact, making the indicative mood the appropriate mood choice. If the speaker had asked how many countries there would be if two countries combined, that would take the subjunctive mood.

For non-native speakers of English, choosing the indicative mood generally makes all sentences understandable, even if the verb form may be incorrect. Still, it is important to understand that other situations, such as giving commands or expressing a wish or desire, may call for the use of a different mood. The verb forms for those moods could certainly change. Therefore, those wanting to speak or write in the most accurate way possible should understand the various moods.

Verb moods are important to understand because they can help provide a context for what the speaker or writer is trying to convey. In some cases, this mood may be used to make an assumption that something is true without actually declaring that it is. Therefore, this mood, at the very least, could be misused to state an opinion or misrepresent what the true facts of a particular situation may be.

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