As I understand:
There are three moods: imperative, indicative, subjunctive.
There are three types of sentences:
declarative (ends with "."),
interrogative (ends with "?"),
exclamatory (ends with "!").

That is:
Imperative can be declarative or exclamatory.
Indicative can be declarative, interrogative or exclamatory.
Subjunctive can be declarative, interrogative or exclamatory.

In this regard, we can't say "Is this sentence imperative or declarative?".
We can say only "Is this sentence imperative or indicative?".

Am I right?
If not, then why not?

  • 5
    You understand wrong. There are lots more moods than those, but English doesn't have them. There are statements and there are questions and there are orders; there are also suggestions, for instance, and offers. All the categorizations you offer (a) don't apply to English, and (b) are old-fashioned Latinate terms that aren't used these days. You'll find you need to distinguish syntactic structure (and terminology) from pragmatic and semantic.
    – jlawler
    Jan 23 at 1:08
  • 3
    @jlawler That would make a good answer.
    – Draconis
    Jan 23 at 2:24
  • It's already got 3 good answers.
    – jlawler
    Jan 23 at 15:15
  • 1
    also you may want to take a look at academic.oup.com/book/35401/chapter/302594933 (Aikhenvald 2014), Chapter 11 Clause and sentence types, esp. 11.3 Speech acts and sentence types, and 7.2.1 Moods, speech acts, and sentence types
    – Alex B.
    Jan 23 at 17:08
  • 1
    caveat, Aikhenvald 2014 says that "The three major speech acts are statements, commands, and questions. They correspond to three kinds of independent clause types (and thus sentence types). Each of these is marked with a choice from the mood system—declarative, imperative, and interrogative (see §7.2.1). The range of possible speech acts (and thus potential clause types) in any language may go beyond these." (emphasis mine - Alex B.)
    – Alex B.
    Jan 23 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


The mood applies to the verb in a clause, not to a sentence.

English has a barely functional system of "moods", nearly all verbs are used in indicative (even in situations that plainly call for a subjunctive) And the imperative and subjunctive are identical in form to the infinitive.

If we weren't comparing English to Latin, "mood" would not be a big thing.

On the other hand, the matter of whether a sentence is declarative or interrogative is a structural and semantic question that affects the whole sentence, not just the verb form. A sentence can be made interogative by the use of particular words (what, why etc) or subject-verb inversion, or subject auxiliary inversion, or just intonation and context.

So it does not make sense to say "the sentence is indicative" But you can say "In this interogative sentence, the auxiliary verb is indicative.

Punctuation is a different thing again. Of course, there is no punctuation in the spoken language. In the written language, exclamation marks are used for a variety of purposes, only some of which are to mark exclamatory sentences. They are also used to indicate joy or surprise. "I'm pregnant!" is a perfectly good declarative sentence, that is marked with an exclamation mark to indicate emotion.


"Mood" is a category that's been invented to describe how certain languages work. In some languages, it makes sense to analyze verbs this way. In others, it doesn't.

Types of utterances, on the other hand, are (usually said to be) universal. Every language has ways to ask questions, or give commands, or state facts.

These types of utterances may or may not correspond to particular verb moods. In Latin, for example, both the imperative and the subjunctive can be used to give commands, and both the indicative and the subjunctive can be used to ask questions.

It's mostly a historical accident that "imperative" is used both for a verb mood and for a type of utterance. It would be better if we had different terminology for these.

  • I wrote: "There are three types of sentences: declarative, interrogative and exclamatory." You say we also have to include the imperative in this list because it has its own utterance. Did I understand you correctly? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Jan 23 at 1:02
  • 1
    @Loviii Most linguists categorize sentences based on their intent rather than their punctuation. For example, "give me that book" would be considered a command, even if it doesn't have an exclamation point.
    – Draconis
    Jan 23 at 2:01
  • When I thought there were three moods: imperative, indicative and subjunctive - I could have said "A verb in the imperative can be in declarative and exclamatory sentences.". But from your comment, I made the conclusion that there are four types of sentences: declarative, interrogative, exclamatory and imperative. So, given this information, I think I should say now: "A verb in the imperative can't be in declarative and exclamatory sentences, it can be only in an imperative sentence." Am I right? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Jan 23 at 2:37
  • @Loviii Different linguists will classify them differently. I'd say interjections and commands are different, but others might disagree.
    – Draconis
    Jan 23 at 3:11
  • I like the term Georgia Green came up with for requests, orders, supplications, etc, all of which impose on the addressee. She calls them all "impositives" for that reason and I like the term. Of course it's a cover, but there are specialized constructions for many of them, like Shall I VP? for offers.
    – jlawler
    Jan 24 at 18:46

The first thing to do is say what "mood" is. Mood is a formal property of verbs forms (formal in the sense "the form of the verb") that signals modality. In other words, "mood" is a morphology-to-semantics relation, which is about verbs. Latin and Sanskrit (among others) have many special inflectional forms, and some of those sub-categories signal time reference but some signal "voice" and some signal "mood", i.e. modality.

Mood is basically propositional attitude. I can declare that the dog is outside (it's a statement of fact), I can inquire whether it is a fact (interrogative), I can state my wish that it be a fact, or my command. I can sub-divide the "wish it were" attitudes into various forces, so I could imprecate or exhort, or command. So there are really as many "moods" as you can imagine people having propositional attitudes about, which they manage to encode into inflectional morphology.

English basically fails to make the grade for "mood" because we don't have different verb forms, although we do have past and present inflectional forms. We make all the pragmatic distinctions that are implies by mood systems in Arabic, Latin and so on, but we use non-morphological means.

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