Teaching Verb Moods

Teaching verb moods? Follow these tips for teaching subjunctive, conditional, imperative, interrogative, and indicative verb moods in middle school language arts classes.

I rarely find myself teaching verb moods, but when I do, here are my talking points.

Verbs have lots of components—something I always share with students. Tenses, voice, action and linking. . . then writers need to be aware of verb moods. Lots of subcategories branch from the simple “verb.”

So when I discuss any piece of verbs with my young writers, I begin by stressing that I know we spend lots of time on verbs. Verbs can empower sentences, and students should have the tools for using them well. My approach with verb moods lessons is similar to my other grammar lessons: I want students to understand their language so they can be better writers and speakers.

Overall, I don’t spend tons of time on teaching the moods of verbs, but below are my talking points and ideas for doing so.

Basic Definitions

I frontload information with teaching verb moods. The definitions actually relate to their corresponding terms, so I emphasize that:

Conditional Mood: shows a “condition” —if one action happens, another action could happen.

Imperative Mood: indicates a state of demand.

Interrogative Mood: asks a question.

Indicative Mood: shows a fact.

Subjunctive Mood: shows a hypothetical state, or a condition that is not reality.

We often make five anchor charts with the definitions and examples. As we discuss literature and writing, we pull strong examples and add those to the posters.

Teaching verb moods? Follow these tips for teaching subjunctive, conditional, imperative, interrogative, and indicative verb moods in middle school language arts classes.


Most students do well with using verb moods especially after I cover the definitions. However, I often find myself teaching the subjunctive mood. Luckily, you can have some fun while teaching the subjunctive.

First, you should be able to find an example to illustrate how writers use the subjunctive mood in a dystopian book. For instance, here is a quote from The Hunger Games:

It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided among ourselves,’ he might say if there were no ears to hear but mine.

But—there are ears to hear, so this condition is not a reality. Dystopian literature often has examples of characters wanting something that is not reality. I pull from literature that students enjoy to highlight the subjunctive mood.

Second, students love to write in the subjunctive mood. Create some sentences together. If I were a flying elephant, I would give humans rides. 

Silliness often helps students remember grammatical concepts.


Students can confuse verb moods or use them incorrectly, often with narrative or creative writing.

If one of the above methods does not fix errors in verb moods, I provide targeted practice. Sometimes students simply can’t identify their errors until they recognize the errors in other formats—an example that is not their own.

Finally, I will pull errors from student writing (copy and paste them, anonymously) into a presentation and correct them with students. Working through the errors and modeling corrections always helps students.

Those are my fast and quick tips for teaching verb moods. Need more grammar ideas? Search on this website for other grammar teaching tips.

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Verb moods sort the different verb moods activity.