Verbal Modes

We explain what the verb modes are and what are the characteristics of each one: the indicative mood, the imperative mood and the subjunctive mood.

verbal modes
Verb moods reflect the speaker’s attitude towards what he says.

What are the verb modes?

In linguistics and grammar, a certain aspect of verbal expression that reflects the attitude or position of the speaker with respect to what he says is called a verbal mood (the modality). Put more simply, the verbal mode is the communicative purpose that the speaker expresses through certain conventional forms of the languageand that in the Spanish language are summarized in three:

  • the indicative moodwhen some aspect of reality is pointed out or the interlocutor is informed about something that happens.
  • the imperative moodwhen you want to modify the behavior or actions of the interlocutor, so that they do something, say something or also to stop doing it.
  • the subjunctive moodwhen a desire, a hypothetical reality or an uncertainty is expressed.

Verb modes should not be confused with tenses, which are the temporal location of the action described in the sentence with respect to the speaker (the past, present, or future, roughly), and can be expressed differently depending on the language. language in question. In fact, not all languages ​​have the same verb modes as Spanishsince they can have more or less.

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Indicative mood and examples

The indicative mood is the most common of the verb moods in the Spanish language: It is what we use to describe any matter of reality, exterior or interior, as it is.. Hence its name, since it serves to indicate, signal, inform or refer to any aspect of reality. In this it is easily distinguished from the subjunctive mode, with which we express desires and possibilities, that is, hypothetical or uncertain realities.

Since the indicative mood It is the most used in Spanish, is the verb mode that allows the most tenses, since with them a greater set of chronological nuances of reality can be expressed. These verb tenses are as follows:

Present time

It refers to the moment in which the communication occurs, so that it is a single tense, but used to express several different nuances. For example:

  • They go to China on vacation.
  • The dog have
  • Home this on the hill.
  • Napoleon invades Spain at the beginning of the 19th century.
  • eskimos they live In alaska.
  • we no longer remains coffee.

Past time

It refers to an action that occurred before the communication between the sender and the receiver took place. Depending on how old the action is and what relationship it expresses with respect to the issuer’s present, one tense or another may be used. Depending on whether or not you require the accompaniment of the assistant to haveit will be a simple time (without an auxiliary) or a compound time (with an auxiliary).

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The past tenses in the indicative are:

past perfect simple or past indefinite. It expresses an action carried out in the immediate past and that at the moment of speaking the issuer is already completed. For example:

  • They were to China on vacation.
  • The dog He had
  • Home he was
  • Napoleon invaded Spain at the beginning of the 19th century.
  • eskimos they lived In alaska.
  • we no longer stayed coffee.

Imperfect past tense. It expresses an action that occurred in the past, but does not express anything about its beginning or completion. It also expresses regular actions in the past. For example:

  • They were going to China on vacation.
  • The dog I had
  • Home I was ruined.
  • France invaded Spain continuously in the Middle Ages.
  • eskimos they lived In alaska.
  • we no longer remained coffee.

Past perfect compound or present tense. It expresses an action that occurred in the past, but with validity in the present. For example:

  • They They have gone to China on vacation.
  • The dog has been
  • Home has been in better hands.
  • France has invaded Spain on numerous occasions.
  • eskimos they have lived in Alaska, Canada and Greenland.
  • We have arrived Early to all meetings.

Pluperfect past tense or antecopreterite tense. Expresses an action that occurred in the remote past, prior to another action that also occurred in the past. For example:

  • They had gone to to China on vacation.
  • the dog already had lost appetite when their owners arrived.
  • Home had been in better condition before.
  • france already had invaded Spain when South American independence began.
  • eskimos they had lived in Alaska before moving to New York.
  • we had arrived early but we had to come back.

Past perfect. It expresses a finite and completed action, immediately prior to another pass, to which it is somehow linked. It is a very little used tense in the living language. For example:

  • Once they had committed the crime, they were trapped by remorse.
  • When it had dawnedthe thieves were gone.
  • As soon as I have learned that technique, I decided to put it into practice.

Conditional compound. It expresses a situation in the past, which would undoubtedly have occurred if another action had taken place first. For example:

  • They they would have traveled to China if the budget had reached them.
  • The dog I would have had Hungry if I hadn’t eaten so much the night before.
  • Home would have been in better hands if that gentleman hadn’t bought it.
  • France would have invaded Spain even if Napoleon had not ruled it.

More in: Preterite

Future time

It refers to an action that will be committed after the end of the sender’s communication, either immediately or in the distant future. Like past tenses, future tenses can be simple (without an auxiliary) or complex (with an auxiliary), and can express different degrees of temporal proximity in the future.

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The future tenses of the indicative are:

Simple or imperfect future. It expresses an action that is about to be carried out, without giving too much precision as to when. For example:

  • They they will travel to China on vacation.
  • The dog will have
  • Home will be in better hands.
  • France will invade Spain again.
  • eskimos they will live Always in Alaska.
  • Us we will stay soon without coffee.

Compound future or future perfect. Expresses a future action that will be completed before another future action is performed. It also allows expressing doubt regarding an action that occurred in the past. For example:

  • They they will have traveled to China before the year is out.
  • The dog would have had Hungry more than once since we left.
  • Home will have been in better hands before the end of the century.
  • France will have invaded Spain completely before his army reacts.
  • Us we will have stayed no coffee when we finally get our salary.
  • i guess the eskimos they will have arrived now to your destination.

Simple conditional. It expresses a situation that would happen in the immediate future if something else happened before. It also allows you to express courtesy tones when asking for something. For example:

  • They would travel to China if they had enough money.
  • the dog not would have hungry if I had food.
  • Home It would in better hands if we bought it ourselves.
  • eskimos they would live in Alaska if you still could.

More in: Indicative mood

imperative mood and examples

The imperative mood, as its name suggests, allows the sender to give the receiver an order, a suggestion or a request. Therefore, verbs in the imperative mood can only be conjugated in the present tense and in the second person singular or plural. Examples of verbs in the imperative mood are:

  • Pass me the salt, please.
  • Get up come on man.
  • make me
  • Bring to me your book.
  • be proud to be who you are
  • Buy me a chocolate.
  • correct me if I’m wrong.

It is important to note that in the case of the negation of the imperative, the particle “no” is used and it is also conjugated in the subjunctive: “Nope I you say that” or “Never I abandon”. The same is true for courtesy cases (you, you): “Come on here”, “Happens You.” either “do me that favor.”

More in: Imperative mood

Subjunctive mood and examples

the subjunctive mood allows the sender to express uncertain realities. This may be because there is a high degree of uncertainty, or doubt, or simply because it is a wish, a hypothesis or a hope. The subjunctive mood always has a certain degree of unreality in what it says, either because it is something imaginary or because it is a subjective perception.

Like the indicative, the subjunctive contemplates different tenses, which serve to express with greater complexity the relationship between reality and the hypothesis, desire or assumption. These tenses are simple when they do not use the auxiliary (to have) and complex when they do require it.

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The tenses of the subjunctive in Spanish are:

Present time

It conveys a possible or even future scenario, as long as there is a margin of uncertainty regarding its realization. It is a single tense. For example:

  • I wish let’s travel to China on vacation.
  • maybe the dog have
  • I would like the house East in better hands.
  • maybe i I win the lottery this month.
  • I don’t believe the eskimos yet live In alaska.
  • I hope so understand better now.

Past time

It is used to express desire or expectation regarding a past scenario, to indicate how it could have been or how we would have liked it to be. The past subjunctive contemplates three different tenses, which are:

Perfect tense. It is a compound tense that is used to express doubt, possibility or desire regarding an action that has already occurred in the past or that could occur in the future, but which is concrete and complete in itself. For example:

  • I hope they have liked the trip to China.
  • The dog will surely be hungry as soon as have returned of the walk
  • I will only be calm when the house has passed in better hands
  • I hope that you have understood With that last clarification.
  • It is impossible for me have seen At the disco, I was sleeping.

imperfect tense. It is a simple tense that can be related to the past, present, or future, depending on its time markers. It is the most usual time when expressing a wish or formulating a hope. For example:

  • I hope so will invite to China on vacation.
  • I brought him food because he did not want the dog had
  • if only we let’s win the lottery this week…
  • I doubt the Eskimos come back to Alaska after living in New York.
  • I don’t think the house I was in better hands if they buy it.
  • How would you like me you will visit Tomorrow in the afternoon.

past tense pluperfect. It expresses a subjective impression regarding a past action, completed and prior to the main sentence. In this sense, it is widely used to express actions not committed or possibilities not taken. For example:

  • I would have loved take me to china
  • I you had said that the dog was hungry!
  • if i they would have sold the house, today would be in better hands.
  • I don’t think we we would have won the lottery this week.
  • Tea we would have visited yesterday, but you weren’t home.
  • Me I would have wanted understand you better then.
  • Can you imagine that the Eskimos they would have marched to New York?

More in: Subjunctive mood


  • “Grammatical mode” on Wikipedia.
  • “Modality” on Wikipedia.
  • “Formation of the imperative in Spanish” in Wikipedia.
  • “Modes and tenses in Spanish” at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).