Some English help websites don't even mention it when they explain Moods. Grammar-Monster.com, for example, has it down as "the infinitive form of a verb" on a completely different page and does not include it on the page explaining Mood. Other English help websites, however, do list it as a mood, like this website does.

So, is it a mood or isn't it? I am so confused. (And be gentle in whatever technical grammarians' jargon you have to use in your answer because I know next to nothing on English Grammar.)


3 Answers 3


There are multiple terminologies for English grammar. Some count the infinitive as a "mood" alongside indicative, imperative, interrogative, and subjunctive, and some don't. (And some include a "conditional" mood.)

The infinitive is different from the other things called moods, because the others all describe "finite" uses of a verb: uses where a verb agrees in person and number with its subject and somehow asserts something about its subject—or asks, or commands, or supposes, these all being different "moods" of predication, i.e. saying something about something. An infinitive does not agree with its subject, as in "Make him leave", and does not even need a subject, as in "It's time to leave."

So, grammarians who want to classify all these ways of using a verb under a single heading have called the infinitive a "mood" and grammarians who want to emphasize the difference between the infinitive and all the finite "moods" have excluded the infinitive. Here is the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of infinitive:

[as a noun] Gram. The infinitive 'mood' or form of a verb.

[as an adjective] Gram. The name of that form of a verb which expresses simply the notion of the verb without predicating it of any subject. Usually classed as a 'mood', though strictly a substantive [i.e. a noun] with certain verbal functions, esp. those of governing an object, and being qualified by an adverb.

The OED's definition of mood explains why it seems reasonable to consider the infinitive a type of mood:

Gram. Any one of the several groups of forms in the conjugation of a verb which serve to indicate the function in which the verb is used, i.e. whether it expresses predication, a command, a wish, or the like; that quality of a verb which depends on the question to which of these groups its form belongs.

So, it is a somewhat arbitrary choice whether you count the infinitive as a mood. This means that there will be raging fanatics who will castigate anyone who makes the opposite choice from their own, viewing it as "wrong" (or worse) rather than just a difference in what one chooses to designate by the word "mood".

My own opinion is that it's nicer to limit "mood" to the different kinds of predication (declarative, imperative, interrogative, etc.) and treat the infinitive as sui generis. I think most grammarians today share this opinion, both traditional grammarians (the great majority) and those devoted to CGEL. So, if you omit the infinitive from lists of moods, you'll probably stay out of trouble.

  • interrogative,imperative, negative, negative interrogative and declarative are sentence forms. There is no subjunctive mood in English.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 1:27
  • 1
    @Lambie Some grammarians say there's no subjunctive in English; others say there is. I think it's mostly due to competing terminologies misunderstood as differences in substance, and partly due to real differences in usage that some people aren't aware of.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 3:55
  • My answer was formulated for a learner. And it uses standard terminology. The rest is academic.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 17:11

No, infinitival is not a mood, but a subordinate clause type containing a plain form of the verb. The same applies to imperatives and subjunctives, both clause types, not moods.

The term 'mood' is most usually applied to the inflectional systems of the verb, as in the contrast between indicative, subjunctive, and imperative in such languages as Latin, French, and German. As far as English is concerned, historical change has more or less eliminated mood from the inflectional system, with the isolated irrealis mood confined to 1st/3rd person singular "were".

The main mood system, therefore, is analytic rather than inflectional, marked by the presence or absence of modal auxiliary verbs.

Edit: you may want to see what professor John Lawler says about 'mood', here link


The moods for verbs in English in traditional grammars:

In grammar, mood is used to refer to a verb category or form which indicates whether the verb expresses a fact (the indicative mood), a command (the imperative mood), a question (the interrogative mood), a condition (the conditional mood).

There is no subjunctive in English:

"I recommend he leave now." Notice,no s in the third person.

Please note: some people like to use the term subjunctive to explain sentences like: I wish I were rich. It is a misnomer.

I would add: negative and negative interrogative.

The link provides many examples of these moods.

infinitives: an infinitive is the basic form of a verb: sing, see, watch and not: sang, saw, watched, which are simple past.

It's best to say the form of a verb.

mood is a category of verb

  • The answerer before you, BillJ, says that the subjunctive and the imperative are not moods. I think he thinks that moods are obsolete in English. So, now, I don't know what to think. Thanks anyways. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 18:22
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    It it not obsolete to say "this sentence is declarative", "this sentence is interrogative", "this sentence is conditional". etc. There is no other way to teach some things. Advanced linguistics and teaching English are not the same discipline at all. Fyi, English verbs do not inflect (that means are not conjugated).basically. Except for the s/es in the third person singular present simple. You still have to teach students: Do it. [imperative] and "Shall I do it?" [interrogative] etc. etc. In that sense, moods do matter.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 19:21
  • Especially, the difference between declarative and interrogative and negative/negative interrogative. infinitive means: I love to sing. sing is the infinitive or bare form of the verb sing, traditionally sometimes referred to as: to sing.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 19:22
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    @strawberries I agree with Lambie. This is very important to avoid some extreme confusion: the terminology used by (some) linguists is not the terminology in common use. The linguists' terminology uses the same words to stand for profoundly different concepts. BillJ is using the linguists' terminology. This causes terrible confusion when used alongside the ordinary terminology with no explanation.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 0:33
  • Are you sure? (Or joking?) The edit history lists only you.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 3:57

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