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 personnelsPersonal moods
Personal moods make a distinction between grammatical persons; that is, they are conjugated.
1.IndicatifIndicativeIndicates a fact - the most common faisI do
2.SubjonctifSubjunctiveExpresses subjectivity, doubt, or fasseI do
3.ConditionnelConditionalDescribes a condition or feraisI would do
4.ImpératifImperativeGives a command.fais-le !do it!
Modes impersonnelsImpersonal 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.ParticipeParticipleAdjectival form of the verb.faisantdoing
6.InfinitifInfinitiveNominal form of the verb, as well as its name.faireto 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.