What is the indicative mood?

What is the indicative mood?

by Laura Jones

Updated November 10, 2022

You know about the past, present, and future tenses, but do you know what the indicative mood is? The indicative mood is used to express statements of fact and to ask questions in English. The overwhelming majority of verbs are in the indicative mood in English and you will see them in declarative and interrogative sentences. Confused? Let’s simplify this and learn more about the indicative mood.

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What is the indicative mood?

First, what is a ‘mood’? A grammatical mood is how the main verb in a clause is used and how it gives meaning to a sentence. There are three major grammatical moods in English:

  1. The indicative mood: Jake told me. 
  2. The subjunctive mood: If I were Jake, I would tell you.
  3. The imperative mood: Tell me now, Jake! 

We are focusing on the indicative mood, which is a verb form we use in declarative sentences. The indicative mood is by far the most common mood in English and it is the only realis mood. The realis mood is used when we want to express that something is real or true.

When to use the indicative mood

You can use the indicative mood in any tense, past, present, or future. It is used when you make statements of fact and opinion and when you ask questions. You almost certainly already know how to make statements and ask questions in English, so you’re already using the indicative mood. For example: 

  • What is your name? – My name is Helena. 
  • What do you think the weather will be like tonight? – I think it will rain.

Present tenses

Here are examples of sentences in the indicative mood in the present simple and continuous, and the present perfect simple and continuous. 

  • The stars are very visible tonight.
  • We are walking to work. 
  • They haven’t eaten yet. 
  • Have you been jogging?

Past tenses

Now we have some example sentences in the indicative mood in the past simple and continuous, and in the past perfect simple and continuous.

  • We went to the gym.  
  • Was he cycling to work? 
  • I had never liked running until I started going with a friend.
  • I had been wanting to go there for a long time. 

Future tenses

Finally, here are some example sentences in the future tenses.

  • Will Marco help
  • She will be coming later. 
  • Pete will have worked there for 20 years in June. 
  • By the time I finish my book, I will have been writing it for over a year.

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The subjunctive and imperative moods

While the indicative mood is by far the most common in English, the subjunctive and imperative moods are used often too. Here’s a quick overview of these moods. 

Subjunctive mood

This mood is used to express wishes, doubts, or imaginary situations. 

  • I suggested that he cycle to work. 

This is not a fact, it is a suggestion. Notice that it is “he cycle”, not “he cycles”. 

Imperative mood

The imperative mood is used to express commands or requests. 

  • Pick that up, right now!
  • Please don’t open the window.

Using the indicative mood

Now that you’re more aware of the different moods in English, and much more familiar with the indicative mood, your speaking and writing should be more precise. Remember, you likely already use the indicative mood in most of your English sentences as, most of the time, we talk about facts and make statements about real situations. 

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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