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Moods

Whether we are aware of it or not, every word we use on a daily basis carry very particular grammatical, practical, temporal, and contextual implications.

In language, a mood is a grammatical feature that denotes how a verb expresses a fact, be it a state or action. It is most often associated with the verb, but is not exclusive to the verb.

Verbal moods represent how the action expressed by the verb is conceived and presented. The action may be doubted, affirmed as real or potential. Conjugation, therefore, is the verbal expression of different tenses, expressing different moods.

There are three voices in French (active, passive, or reflexive) and seven moods, four of which are described as personal. The other three are impersonal.

 

PERSONAL MOODS

THE INDICATIVE (L'INDICATIF)

• It is the mood of that expresses reality.
• It is the mood in which what is said is held true by the speaker.

The word "Indicative" comes from the latin "indicativus", which means "that indicates, that means", therefore, just like in English, we use the Indicative to assert and to indicate.

The Indicative states a fact considered to be over in a declarative sentence, or a fact that remains to be verified in an interrogative sentence and secondary shares or descriptive.

Examples:

He comes, he eats. (Declarative statement, real fact said in the present)
Is he coming? (Interrogative statement, yet to be verified).

 

The Indicative has eight tenses:

• Four simple tenses: present (le present), imperfect (l'imparfait), Historic past (le passe simple) and simple future (le futur simple);

• Four compound tenses: the past tense/perfect (le passe compose), the pluperfect (le plus-que-parfait), the past anterior (le passe anterieur) and the future perfect (le futur anterieur).

Note also that the Historic past and passe anterieur are primarily literary tenses generally not used in spoken language.

THE IMPERATIVE (L'IMPERATIF)

The imperative provides an order (injunction), a prayer, a wish, an exhortation, a defense, an invitation or inducement. There are only 3 people (2nd singular, 1st and 2nd plural).

Examples: Come! Eat!

THE SUBJUNCTIVE (LE SUBJONCTIF)

The subjunctive reflects movement of the soul (thinking, feeling or a desire), proposed but not yet realized (DOVE: doubt, duty, will, emotion). Unlike the Indicative, the reality is filtered through and colored by the speaker's feelings.

Examples: I'm not sure it comes / it eats.

THE CONDITIONAL (LE CONDITIONNEL)

The Conditional is used to evoke a possible fact, more or less likely, dependent on a condition, an assumption (chance) or a hypothetical concession, often introduced by if, that, etc...

Examples: If I could, I would come / I would eat.

 

IMPERSONAL MOODS

THE INFINITIVE (L'INFINITIF)

The infinitive can have a nominal value (especially in the now, in the present) or verbal value (present and past tenses).

Examples:

Que faire - Avoir ose me narguer
What to do? - Having dared defy me!

The infinitive can have a present, past, or future meaning.

THE PARTICIPLE (LE PARTICIPE)

The participle is, like the infinitive, a nominal form of the verb, participating in both the verb (expressing action) and the adjective (qualifying a noun).

The present participle is often used as a verbal adjective qualifying a noun. In this case, it expresses a way of being rather than an action. In other cases, it acts as a verb, with a subject and direct objects.

The past participle, meanwhile, is mostly passive and denotes a completed process. It may agree in gender and number, according to relatively complex rules (eat, she ate, she ate it). The past participle is the form used after an auxiliary in all compound tenses in French.

THE GERUND (LE GERONDIF)

The gerund is used to indicate the simultaneity of an act that takes place in the context of another fact, but also to express the manner or way, or yet to express the cause or origin.

It is formed of the preposition EN + a present participle, usually relating the active aspect of the present participle.


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