A sentence that gives a command or makes a request is in the imperative mood:
Please go to bed.
Go to bed now!
Imperative mood sentences can be very short because the subject (i.e. the person being asked or told to do something) is often omitted.
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The Conditional Mood
Conditional sentences typically use one of the modal verbs ‘could’, ‘might’, ‘should’ or ‘would’. This is because they express something that is uncertain or that depends on something else:
He could to go to bed if he wanted to.
The example here is conditional because it expresses a possibility (i.e. going to bed) that the subject could do were he so inclined.
The Subjunctive Mood
Like the conditional mood, the subjunctive mood is concerned with hypothetical actions. Primarily, the subjunctive mood deals with wishes, suggestions and situations that are contrary to fact (usually ‘if’ statements):
If I were tired, I would go to bed.
Here, the speaker is not tired: going to bed is only a possibility, not a likely course of action, so the sentence is in the subjunctive mood.
The example above also points to a common error related to the subjunctive mood: mixing up ‘were’ and ‘was’.
This confusion is rooted in the past tense use of these words, where ‘was’ is singular (e.g. ‘I was sleeping’) and ‘were’ is plural (e.g. ‘We were sleeping’). In the subjunctive mood, however, ‘were’ is used for both singular and plural subjects:
If I were him, I would go to bed. ✓
If I was him, I would go to bed. ✗
Although a fairly minor error, it’s worth looking out for this in your work.