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.

Verb mood activities can be engaging for middle school language arts teachers

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. If students struggle to understand the definitions or to remember them, I reinforce the practice with verb mood worksheets. Sometimes, the anchor charts and sample sentences are sufficient in teaching verb moods. When students need more practice, we use worksheets or another activity.

Teaching moods in verbs can help with middle school grammar.


Like I mentioned, my verb mood lessons can be short. Some classes simply latch onto the definitions, can write different moods, and quickly fix errors. You might find examples casually in literature lessons, and students will respond well to lessons.

Other times, you’ll need a variety of verb mood activities. When students struggle to understand the concept, consider doing a few activities:

  1. Give an open book/note quiz. Students might struggle to memorize all the different verb moods, and honestly, when most students use them in their lives, they will be able to consult the definitions. When I give a quiz over verb moods, I often let students have the definitions. And? Oftentimes, students understand the concepts more than I suspected.
  2. Write in a variety of ways. Ask students to implement verb moods across numerous writing tasks. Doing this allows for natural practice.
  3. Take your time. You might have scheduled the study of verb moods for a week. Don’t be afraid to stretch the practice longer. If students think you are frustrated, they often become frustrated too. Try a new approach or give the lessons a few days off. Revisit verb moods when a natural opening occurs.

As you work with students, you’ll realize where you can implement verb mood practice.

verb mood lesson plans should include a variety of samples


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. Write some ridiculous sentences together to practice verb moods.

Teaching verbs in moods can be a fun learning experience.


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.