Moods of Verbs - Indicative, Imperative, and Subjunctive Moods

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Indicative, Imperative, and Subjunctive Moods in Latin Verbs. Ulrike Schmitt-Hartmann / Getty Images

I. Indicative Mood

The indicative mood "indicates" a fact. The fact can be a belief and need not be true. "He sleeps," (dormit) is in the indicative. Neither "Go to sleep!" nor "He may be sleeping" are in the indicative.

II. Imperative Mood

Normally, the imperative mood is used for direct commands (orders) like "Go to sleep!". English rearranges the word order and adds an exclamation point. The Latin imperative is formed by removing the "-re" ending of the present infinitive.

When ordering two or more people, add -"te." For more on the imperative in Latin, see:

III. Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is tricky. Part of this is because in English we are rarely aware of when we are using the subjunctive. Chances are when the auxiliary verbs may (as in "He may be sleeping"), can, must, might, could, and would appear in an English sentence, the verb is in the subjunctive. Latin uses ​the subjunctive in other instances, as well. [See the following sections.]

A. Hortatory and Iussive Subjunctive - Independent Clause:

In an independent Latin clause, the hortatory subjunctive is used when there is not "ut" or "ne" and an action is being urged (exhorted). Usually, the hortatory subjunctive is in the first person plural present.

In the second or the third person, the iussive subjunctive is usually used. "Let" is generally the key element in translating into English. Let's go would be hortatory. Let him play would be iussive.

B. Purpose (Final) Clause in the Subjunctive - Dependent Clause:


  • Introduced by ut or ne in a dependent clause.
  • Relative clause of purpose is introduced by a relative pronoun (qui, quae, quod).
    Horatius stabant ut pontem protegeret 'Horatius stood in order to protect the bridge'.
    ~ More on Clauses of Purpose.

C. Result (Consecutive) Clause in the Subjunctive - Dependent Clause:

Introduced by ut or ut non. The main clause should have a tam, ita, sic, or tantus, -a, -um.
Leo tam saevus erat ut omnes eum timerent 'The lion was so fierce that everyone feared him'.

D. Indirect Question in the Subjunctive:

Indirect questions introduced by interrogative words. Rogat quid facias. 'He asks what you are doing'. The questioning word rogat 'he asks' is in the indicative, while facias 'you do' is in the subjunctive. The direct question would be Quid facis 'What are you doing?'

E. Cum Circumstantial and Causal:

Cum circumstantial is a dependent clause where the word cum is translated 'when' or 'while' and explains the circumstances of the main clause. When cum is causal, it is translated as since or because and explains the reason for the action of the main clause.

There are even additional uses for the Subjunctive.

Latin Verb Endings for the Different Tenses and Moods