Verb: the Category of Mood
The category of Mood is the most controversial category of the verb.

B.A. Ilyish: " The category of mood in the present English verb has given rise to so many discussions, and has been treated in so many different ways, that it seems hardly possible to arrive at any more less convincing and universally acceptable conclusion concerning it."

Among the scholars to be named in the first place in relation to the problem are A.I. Smirnitsky, whose theories revolutionized the presentation of English verbal grammar; then B.A. Ilyish , a linguist who made a great contribution to the general problem of mood; then Y.N. Vorontsova; Z.S. Khlebnikova.

The category of Mood expresses the relations between the action, denoted by the verb, and the actual reality from the point of view of the speaker. The speaker may treat the action/event as real, unreal or problematic or as fact that really happened, happens or will happen, or as an imaginary phenomenon.

It follows from this that the category of Mood may be presented by the opposition

obligue mood - direct mood

= unreality = reality.

The former is the strong member.

The latter is the weak member.

Mood relates the verbal action to such conditions as certainty, obligation, necessity, possibility.

The most disputable question in the category of mood is the problem of number and types of Obligue Moods. Obligue Moods denote unreal or problematic actions so they can't be modified by the category of tense proper. They denote only relative time, that is simultaneousness or priority. Due to the variety of forms it's impossible to make up regular paradigms of Obligue Moods and so classify them.

Some authors pay more attention to the plane of expression, other to the plane of content. So different authors speak of different number and types of moods. The most popular in Grammar has become the system of moods put forward By Prof. Smirnitsky. He speaks of 6 mood forms:

The Indicative Mood

The Imperative Mood

Subjunctive I

Subjunctive II

The Conditional Mood

The Suppositional Mood

Subjunctive I expresses a problematic action. Subjunctive I is used in American English and in newspaper style. Subjunctive I coincides with the Infinitive without the particle to. Ex.: Ring me up if he would be there.

This mood is expressed in English to a very minor extent (e.g.: So be it then!). It is only used in certain set expressions, which have to be learned as wholes:

Come what may, we will go ahead.

God save the Queen!

Suffice it to say that...

Be that as it may...

Heaven forbid that...

So be it then.

Long live the King!

Grammar be hanged!

This Mood is also used in that clauses, when the main clause contains an expression of recommendation, resolution, demand, etc. The use of this subjunctive I occurs chiefly in formal style (and especially in Am E) where in less other devices, such as to - infinitive or should = infinitive.

It is necessary that he be there.

It is necessary that he should be there.

It is necessary for him to be there.

Subjunctive II denotes an unreal action and it coincides in the form with the Past Indefinite Tense (Subjunctive II Present) or Past Perfect (Subjunctive II Past). Ex.: I wish he had told the truth. If only he were here!

Mood is expressed in English to a much greater extent by past tense forms. E.g.:

If you taught me, I would learn quickly.

If she was/were to do smth like that.

He spoke to me as if I was/ were deaf...

I wish I was/were was


1) "Was” is more common in less formal style

2) Only "were” is acceptable in "As it were" (= so to speak)

3) "Were” is usual in "If I were you".

The Conditional Mood denotes an unreal action and is built by the auxiliary verb "world" + any Infinitive a non-perfect infinitive expresses Simultaneousness while a perfect infinitive expresses priority. E.g.: But for the rain we would go for a walk. But for the rain we would have gone...

The Suppositional Mood also expresses a problematic action and is formed with the help of the auxiliary verb "should" for all the persons + Infinitive. E.g.: Ring me up if he should be there.

This mood can be used with any verb in subordinate that - clauses when the main clause contains an expression of recommendation resolution, demand etc. (demand, require, insist, suggest...) E.g.: It is necessary that every member should inform himself of these rules = It is necessary for every member to inform... It is strange that he should have left so early.

Subjunctive I and the Suppositional Mood are differentiated only by their form but their meaning is the same.

Taking into consideration the fact that the forms of the Obligue Moods coincide in many cases with the forms of the Indicative Mood, there arises a problem of homonymy or polysemy. E.g.: He lived here. (The indicative Mood, Past Tense, Priority, real action).

If only he lived! (Subjunctive II, simultaneousness, unreal action)
The Verb

The general review

Grammatically, the verb is the most complex part of speech. This is due to the central role it performs in the expression of the predicative function of the sentence, i.e. the functions establishing the connection between the situation named in the utterance and reality.

The complexity of the verb is inherent not only in the intricate structure of its grammatical, categories, but also in its various subclass divisions.

The complicated character of the grammatical and lexico-grammatical structure of the verb has given rise to much dispute and controversy and also terminological disagreements among the scholars. The general categorical meaning of the verb is process.

A verb is a word (e.g.: to run) or a phrase (e.g.: run out of), which expresses the existence of a state (love, seem) or the doing of an action (take, play).

From the point of view of their outward structure, verbs may be simple, composite and phrasal.

The original simple verbs are not numerous (go, take, real, etc).

But conversion (zero-suffixation) as means of derivation, greatly enlarges the simple stem set of verbs. It is one of the most productive ways of forming verbs in ME.

Ex.: a cloud - to cloud, a house - to house, a man - to man, a park - to park.

The typical suffixes expanding the stem of the verb are: -ate; -en; -ify; -izy.

The verb-deriving prefixes are:

Be- (e.g.: belittle, befriend, bemoan);

En- (e.g.: engulf, embed);

Re- (e.g.: remake);

Under- (e.g.: undergo);

Over- (e.g.: overestimate);

Sub- (e.g.: submerge);

Mis- (e.g.: misunderstand)

The composite verb stems (blackmail, whitewash, etc).

Phrasal verbs occupy an intermediate position between analytical forms of the verb and syntactic word combinations. Among such stems 2 specific constructions should be mentioned:

A) a combination of the head-verb (have, give, take and some others) with a noun; the combination has its equivalent an ordinary verb. Ex.: to have a smoke - to smoke; to give a smile - to smile; to take a stroll - to stroll.

cool а combination of a head verb with a verbal postposition that has a specificational value. Ex. stand up; go on; give in; be off, get along.

On the basis of the subject-process relation all the notional verbs be divided into actional and statal.

Actional verbs express the action performed by the subject. To this class belong such verbs as do, act, make, go, read, learn, discover, etc.

Statal verbs denote the caste of their subject. To this subclass belong such verbs as be live, survive, worry, suffer, see, know, etc. They usually occur in the simple form in all tenses. They are not generally used in progressive forms. But if there are used so there any change of meaning. E.g.: Oh, it hurts! — Oh, it's hurting!

Finite & non-finite verbs

The complicated structure and character of the verb has given rise to much dispute and controversy. The morphological field of the English verb heterogeneous. It includes a number of groups or classes of verbs, which differ from each other in their morphological and syntactic properties.

All English verbs have finite and non-finite forms.

The finite verb invariably performs the function of the verb- predicate. Finite verbs are subdivided into regular and irregular depending on the way the participle II are formed.

Non-finite verbs perform different functions according to their intermediary nature (subject, object, adverbial modifier, attribute). They may be used as any member of the sentence but the predicate. Inside the sentence verbals make up complexes with other members of the sentence.


The nucleus of the morphological field of the verb is based on the finite verbs, and the periphery includes all other groups of verbs and verbals.

The grammatical categories which find formal expression in the outward structure of the verb are categories of person, number, tense, aspect, voice, mood. This complete set is revealed in every word-form of the notional finite form.

From the functional point of view the class of verbs may be subdivided into the set of full nominative value and partial. Notional verbs are verbs of full nominative value. The set of partial nominative value represent semi-notional and functional verbs. The first set is derivationally open it includes the bulk of the verbal lexicon. The second set is derivationally closed, it includes limited subsets of verbs characterized by individual relational properties.

Semi-notional and functional verbs include auxiliary verbs, modal verbs, link-verbs. Semi-notional verbs (seem, happen, turn out, begin, continue, stop, fall, try, etc).

Link-verbs: seem, appear, look, feel, become, get, grow, remain, keep.

Auxiliary verbs constitute grammatical elements of the categorical forms of the verb. These are the verbs be, have, do shall, will, should, may, might. Auxiliary verbs to give other information about actions and states.

Ex. be may be used with the present participle of a full verb to say that an action was going on at a particular time ("in progress"). I was swimming.

Ex.: The verb "to have” may be used with the past participle of a full verb to say that an action is completed (I have finished my job).

Link-verbs introduce the nominal part of the predicate (the predicative), which is commonly expressed by a noun, an adjective or a phrase of a similar semantico-grammatical character. It should be noted that link-verb, although they are named so, are not devoid of meaningful content. Their function is connecting (linking) the subject and the predicative of the sentence. The linking function in the purest form is effected by the verb be (pure link-verb). All the link-verbs other than the pure links the pure specification express some specification (specifying link-verbs). Two main groups:

A) perceptional link verbs: seem, appear, look, feel, taste.

cool factual limk-verbs: become, get, grow, remain, keep.

Verbals make up a special grammatical category.

The infinitive

Among the various forms of the verb the infinitive occupies a unique position. Its status is that of the principal representative of the verb-lexeme as a whole. This is determined by the two factors:

A) its giving the most general dynamic name to the process;

cool its serving as the actual derivative base for all the other regular forms of the verb.

The Infinitive is intermediate between the verb and the noun. It combines the properties of the verb with those of the noun. It is considered as the head-form of the whole paradigm of the verb.

The Participle

The Participle is intermediate between the verb and the adjective and adverb.

The Present Participle is the non-finite form of the verb which combines the properties of the verb and those of the adjective and adverb, serving as qualifying processual name. In its outer form the present participle is wholly homonymous with the gerund and distinguishes the same grammatical categories.

Like all the verbals it has no categorical time distinctions, and the attribute "present" in its conventional name is not immediately explanatory; it is used from force of tradition.

Past Participle is the non-finite form of the verb which combines the properties of the verb with those of the adjective, serving as the qualifying processual name. It is a single form, having no paradigm of its own. It conveys implicitly the categorial meaning of the perfect and the passive. The main functions in the sentence are those of the attribute and the predicative.

The gerund

The gerund is the non- finite form of the verb, which like the infinitive combines the properties of the verb with those of the noun. Similar to the infinitive, gerund serves as me verbal name of a process, but its substantive quality is more strongly pronounced than that of the Infinitive.

A question might arise, why the Infinitive and not the gerund is taken as the head-form of the verbal paradigm?

The gerund cannot perform the function of the paradigmatic head-form for a number of reasons. In the first place, it is more detached from the finite verb than the infinitive semantically. Then it is a suffixal form, which makes it less generalized. Finally, it is less definite, being subject to easy neutralization in its opposition. Hence the gerund is no rival of the infinitive in the paradigmatic head-form function.

The formal sign of the gerund is wholly homonymous with that of the present participle: it is the suffix ”-ing” added to the grammatically leading element. Like the infinitive the gerund is a categorially changeable form. It distinguishes the aspective category of retrospective coordination (perfect in opposition), and the category of voice (passive in opposition). Consequently the categorical paradigm of the gerund includes 4 forms: the simple, the perfect active, the simple passive the perfect passive.

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs express the attitude: ability, obligation, permission, advisability, probability. Modal Verbs are defective in forms. They do not differentiate the category of person, number, voice, aspect, perfect, no future tense no verbals. They have lost many of their categorial meanings.

Modal verbs or modals are concerned with our relationship with someone else. Modal have 2 major functions which can be defined as primary and secondary.

Primary function of Modal Verbs. In their primary function MVs closely reflect the meanings:

A) of ability (can/could). / can lift 25 kg/I can type.

cool of permission (may/might). You may leave early.

C) of prediction (will/would) - (shall/should). It will rain soon.

D) Of escapable obligation or duty (should/ought to). You should (ought to) do as you are told.

E) Of inescapable obligation. You must be quiet. F) Of absence of obligation. You needn't wait.

Secondary function of MVs

In their secondary function nine of modal auxiliaries can be used to express the degree of certainly/uncertainly a speaker fuels about a possibility. They can be arranged on a scale from the greatest uncertainty (might) to the greatest certainty (must).




can be right

should have been right

You ought to




very certain

almost certain

The category of aspect

The aspective meaning of the verb reflects the mode of the realization of the process. The opposition of the continuous forms of the verb to the non-continuous represents the aspective category of development. The marked member of the opposition is the continuous. It is built by the auxiliary be plus the Present Participle. In symbolic notation it is represented by the formula The categorial meaning of the Continuous is "action in progress".

The unmarked member is the indefinite, which leaves the meaning unspecified. Four combinations of the continuous and the indefinite are possible in principle in Modern English. E.g.: While I was typing, Mary and Tom were chatting in the adjoining room. While I typing, Tom and Mary were chatting in the adjoining room. While I was typing, they chatted in ... While I typed, they chatted.

Clearly, the difference in meaning cannot lie in their time denotations. The time is shown by their time signals (were - ed). The meaningful difference consists in the following: the continuous shows the action in the very process of its realization; the indefinite points it out as a mere fact. We speak of the morphological category of the verb, but care should be taken that the character of the development of the action may also be expressed lexically or remain implicit. E.g.: When I entered the room he was writing a letter. He wrote and wrote the letter (lexically). When I entered the room, he wrote a letter.

In the last sentence the form of the verb doesn't express the Continuous aspect explicitly because the speaker isn't interested in the action, but in the object of the action. Traditionally forms like "is writing" are called Present, Past, Future Continuous Tense, but that is not quite right. Such forms should be called Present Tense, Continuous aspect (is writing). The Present Tense is modified by the Continuous. It the Continuous were a special tense then we should speak of 2 tenses at once. But the action can't develop in 2 tenses at once. If the actions are not progressive by themselves (if they are not shown as progressive), the description will go without the continuous forms. The Continuous refers a to a definite time-point. The category of development undergoes explicit various reductions:

1. The unlimitive verbs are very easily neutralized Ex. The night is wonderfully silent. The stars shine with a fierce brilliancy, the Southern Cross and wind. The Duke's face seemed blushed, and more lined than some of his recent photographs showed. He held a glass in his hand.

2. As to the statal verbs, their neutralization amounts to a grammatical rule. They are so called "never-used-in-the-Continuous" verbs: a) the unique "to be” and "to have”; b) verbs of possession, verbs of relation, of physical perception, of mental perception

3. Worthy of note is the regular neutralization with the introductory verb supporting the participial construction of parallel action. Ex. He stood smoking a pipe. Not normally: He was standing smoking.

4. On the other hand, the Continuous can be used to denote habitual, recurrent actions. Continuous verb forms are more expressive than non-continuous - they are used in emotional speech. Ex.: He is always complaining.

5. Special note should be of the broadening use of the Continuous with unlimitive verbs. Here are some typical examples. Ex. I heard a rumor that a certain member here present has been seeing the prisoner this afternoon (E.M. Forster). I had a horrid feeling she was seeing right through me and knowing all about me. What matters is, you're being damn fools (A.Hailey)

6. Compare similar transpositions in the expressions of anticipated future. E.g.: Dr. Aarons will be seeing the patient this morning (A.Hailey). Soon we shall be hearing the news about the docking of the spaceships having gone through.

Since the neutralization of the Continuous with these verbs is quite regular, we have an emphatic reduction serving the purpose of speech expressiveness.

The Category of voice

The category of Voice expresses relations between the subject and the object of the action or between the subject and the action.

The opposition of the passive form of the verb to the active form of the verb expresses the voice of the English Verb. E.g.: writes - is written. The passive form is the strong member of the opposition. On the plane of expression it is marked by the combination of the auxiliary be with the Past Participle of the notional verb. The active form as a weak member of the opposition expresses "non-passivity". The Active Voice shows that the subject of the sentence is the doer of the action. The Passive Voice shows that the subject is acted upon. The agent may be expressed in the sentence and it's usually introduced with the help of the preposition by. Ex. The book is written by a young writer.

The sentence with the passive voice may include a means of the action, which is introduced, with the help of the conjunction with. Ex. The book is covered with a newspaper.

The category of voice has a much broader representation in the system of the English verb than in the system of the Russian verb, since in English not only transitive but also intransitive verbs can be used.

In accord with their relation to the passive voice, all the verbs can be divided into 2 large sets: the set of passivized verbs and the set of non-passivized verbs. In particular the passive is alien to many verbs of the statal subclass, such as have, belong, cost, resemble, fail, misgive, etc.

The demarcation line between the passivized and non-passivized set is not rigid, and the verbs of the non-passivized set may migrate into the passivized set in various contexts. Ex. The bed has not been slept in. The house seems not to have been lived in.

Sometimes the opposition between 2 forms may be reduced. It means that the verb may be used in the Active Voice form with the meaning of the Passive Voice. Usually we observe it with medial verbs and some authors speak of the medial Voice.

The matter is that verbs may be transitive (which require a subject and an object) and intransitive (which do not require an object) because an action of the verb is directed at a subject. Ex. He reads a book. She smiled.

Medial verbs do not require any subject but as the English sentence requires that the position of the subject should be filled in, then the object fills in the position of the subject. Ex. The book sells well.

Verbs that are Active in Form but Passive in Meaning

Some verbs which are usually followed by an object (to sell, to cut, to wash) can be used without an object and take on a passive meaning. In this, case, the person carrying out the action of the Verb is not referred to. Ex. This book sells well, i.e. it is sold to many people. The dress washes/irons, well, i.e. it is easily washed/ironed. This material makes up nicely into suits, i.e. it can be used by the tailor for making suits. The butter spreads easily, i.e. it can be spread easily. The bread is cutting badly because it's very soft, i.e. to cut the bread is difficult. Other tenses may also be used. The book sold well. The dress has washed well. The material will make up nicely.

Note: the verbs are followed by adverbs in the above examples. It is also possible to omit the adverb, if the meaning is clear. This is often the case in the question form and in the negative. E.g.: The book didn't sell, so it wasn't reprinted. The dress is very pretty. Will it wash? The material should make up into a winter dress, shouldn't it? Butter won’t spread when it's been in the fridge. Will the bread cut? If not, try the other knife.

There are some other verbs of this sort, with the nouns (subjects) that they are often used with in this construction

(A car) drives, steers

(A boat) sails

(A clock) winds up

(A door) locks, unlocks

(A book) reads well / easily, i.e. the book is good / easy to read.

Large native cigarettes smoked easily and coolly. The lion chops will eat better than they look.

Problem of neutralization: Passive in form but active in meaning

When dealing with the category of Voice the problem is that the Passive Voice constructions coincide with the compound nominal predicate ( was opened ). If this construction (be + Participle II) expresses a state then it is a compound nominal predicate in the Active Voice. Ex. The window was broken and it was cold in the room. She was excited (a.v.) She was excited by the friend's words. (P. V.)

Besides there 2 Voice some authors speak of some more Voice forms. The most popular are the Reflexive Voice and the Reciprocal Voice and the Middle Voice. Ex. She dressed herself. They helped each other.

The reflexive and reciprocal pronouns should be looked upon as the voice auxiliaries. Such word combinations are treated as analytical verb forms of the Reflexive or Reciprocal voice . However we can't agree to the idea , because :

1. The reflexive/reciprocal pronouns preserve their lexical meaning but auxiliaries in analytical forms loose their meanings.

2. There are syntactic relations between the components. The reflexive / reciprocal pronouns are objects to the verbs. We can prove this by using homogeneous objects. Ex. He dressed himself and his brother. They praised one another and all the quests. He defended himself, a victim of the situation.

Hence, such word combinations are free word combinations. As for the Middle Voice, some authors find it when comparing the following sentences: Ex. He opened the door.-The door opened.

The Middle Voice uses are cases of neutralizing reduction of the voice oppositions. Ex. He broke the ice.-The ice broke.

The verbs are active in form, but passive in meaning. Ex. She was delightful to look at, witty to talk to.

Another case of neutralization: You are of mistaken (Passive in form, but active in meaning). It expresses a state.

The forms of the Active Voice can't be opposed and it there is no opposition we can't speak of any special grammatical category. In sentences like "the door opened” we should speak of medial verbs in the Active Voice.

Category of Tense

The Category of Tense is the basic verb category. It expresses the correlation between the action and event and objective time. We know that the actions or event can exist and develop only in time. The morphological category of tense reflects the objective logical category of time. But the difficulty is that the morphological category of tense doesn't always express the objective time. We should differentiate the notions of the objective and relative time. In the language we mostly deal not with objective but with relative time. We can speak of the objective-time only in those cases wnen the moment of speaking coensides with a developing action.But actually wetake some moment of time as a starting point in reference to which all the actions are expressed.

If this starting point of time is taken in the plane including the moment of speaking then we deal with the Present tense.

Any action which proceeds this starting moment of time is expressed by the Past Tense. And finally, any action which follows this starting point of time is expressed by the Future Tense. So we differentiate 3 principal tense forms in English: Present, Past, Future.

In English there exists one more specific tense form which is called the "Future-in-the-Past". This tense form is used when we want to say that the action is treated as Future in reference to some Past moment of time.

The Present Tense is formed by the Infinitive without the particle to in the 3-rd person singular the verb takes the inflexion -s(-es). The Past Tense of the regular verb is formed with the help of the inflexion -ed. The Past Tense of the irregular verbs is formed in some different ways:

1) by sound alternation (sit-sat-sat);

2) by sound alternation and a dental suffix (keep-kept-kept);

3) supplitively (be-was/were-been);

4) without any change in the form of the verb (put-put-put).

The Future Tense is formed with the help of the auxiliary verb shall/will and the infinitive of the notional verb.

The Future-in-the-Past is formed with should/would and infinitive of the notional verb without the particle "to".

Traditional grammar speaks of 16 tense forms in English but actually there exist only 4 of them. The matter is that when speaking about an action we express its primary characteristics of tense but then it may be necessary to show the character of the development of the action or to compare the action with some other one and then in suchycases the primary tense category is modified by some other verb categories such as aspect (continuous or non-continuous), perfect (perfect or non-perfect).

So we get complex analytical forms, which express not one category of tense but a number of them. Ex. If we analyze such forms, as "is reading" we should say that this verb expresses Present Tense and continuous aspect or perfect. Hence the modification of the category of Tense by the category of aspectbrings about the appearance of 16 verb forms.
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