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French Verb Mood

Le Mode


Mood refers to the verb forms that indicate the attitude of the speaker toward the action/state of the verb; that is, how likely or factual the speaker believes the statement to be. The French language has six moods.

Modes personnels Personal moods
Personal moods make a distinction between grammatical persons; that is, they are conjugated.
1. Indicatif Indicative Indicates a fact - the most common mood. je fais I do
2. Subjonctif Subjunctive Expresses subjectivity, doubt, or unlikelihood. je fasse I do
3. Conditionnel Conditional Describes a condition or possibility. je ferais I would do
4. Impératif Imperative Gives a command. fais-le ! do it!
Modes impersonnels Impersonal moods
Impersonal moods are invariable, meaning that they do not distinguish between grammatical persons. They are not conjugated, but instead have a single form for all persons.*
5. Participe Participle Adjectival form of the verb. faisant doing
6. Infinitif Infinitive Nominal form of the verb, as well as its name. faire to do
The difference between tense and mood is very simple. Tense indicates the when of the verb: whether the action takes place in the past, present, or future. Mood describes the feeling of the verb; more specifically, the speaker's attitude toward the action of the verb. Is s/he saying that it's true or uncertain? Is it a possibility or a command? These nuances are expressed with different moods.

Moods and tenses work together to give verbs a precise meaning. Each mood has at least two tenses, present and past, though some moods have more. The indicative mood is the most common - you might call it the "normal" mood - and has eight tenses. When you conjugate a verb, you do so by first choosing the appropriate mood and then adding a tense to it. Take a look at my introduction to verb conjugation and verb timeline for more information about how tenses and moods fit together.

*However, in the case of pronominal verbs, the reflexive pronoun must change to agree with its subject.

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