I hope you’re celebrating National Grammar Day, because if you’re not—well, let’s just say that grammar can get a little moody.
Yes, grammar does have “moods”—it’s the term used to refer to one of five verb categories. They are:
The indicative mood, which expresses a statement of fact:
She is a prize-winning author.
The imperative mood, which is used to issue a command or instruction:
Have a great Grammar Day!
The interrogative mood, which is used to ask questions and is formed by adding an auxiliary verb:
Did you have a good Grammar Day?
The conditional mood, which uses the auxiliary verb would (and should with “I” and “we”):
We would throw a grammar party every day if we had the time.
I should study my grammar book a bit more.
Finally, there’s the subjunctive mood, which expresses wishful or hypothetical thinking. It is also used to indicate that something is being suggested or demanded.
I wish I were a better author.
It was suggested that he study grammar.
The word “if” in the beginning of a sentence is also an indicator to use the subjunctive mood, as it expresses something that is wishful or contrary to fact:
If I were in charge, I would declare every day Grammar Day.
While few people have problems with the first four moods, this last one trips up many. I see this all the time: People incorrectly use “was” instead of “were.”
One way to remember this is to keep in mind a well-known song from Fiddler on the Roof, “If I Were a Rich Man.” Teyve is not a rich man, so the song is all wishful thinking, with lyrics such as: “If I were a rich man, all day long I’d biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man, I wouldn’t have to work hard.”
Now go forth and celebrate on this fourth.
Lourdes Venard is a freelance editor and copyediting instructor.