Verb Tenses, Mood, and Voice

Verb Tenses

Tense is the time of action expressed by the verb. The simple tenses indicate a general time of action or state of being: present, past, and future. The perfect tenses indicate completed actions. The progressive tenses indicate continuing actions. The perfect progressive tenses indicate actions that continue up to some point in time.


The mood of a verb indicates whether the writer or speaker regards the action as a fact, as a command, or as a wish, request, or condition contrary to fact.

The indicative mood is used for ordinary statements and questions.

He is late.
Is he on time?

The imperative mood is used for commands.

Be quiet.
Come here.

The subjunctive mood is used for:

  • conditions contrary to fact and in clauses following certain verbs such as demand, insist, recommend, request, suggest, and urge.
    If the plants were healthy, they would not droop. (The plants are not healthy.)
  • in that clauses after verbs expressing wishes, commands, requests, or recommendations.
    Ex: I wish that you were here.
    The college requires that freshman live in the dorms.
  • in some idioms.
    Peace be with you.
    Heaven help us!
    Be that as it may.
    Long live the King!


Voice shows whether the subject performs the action or receives the action. In active voice, the subject performs the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the action.

Active: The dog dropped the stick.
Passive: The stick was dropped by the dog.

Active voice is more direct, economical, and forceful than the passive.

Passive: The car was driven by Susie.
Active: Susie drove the car.

Use passive voice when the doer is unknown.

The money was stolen.
The letter was not addressed to anyone in particular.

Use passive voice when the receiver of the action is more important than the doer.

The prize-winning apples were grown by Farmer John.
The flu was spread by people who did not wash their hands.

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