Mood is a feature of the verb that indicates the manner in which the speaker is portraying the verbal action in relation to reality.” Greek has four moods: indicative, imperative, subjunctive, and optative.

The two remaining verb forms, the infinitive and the participle, technically do not have mood, but are often discussed in the same section as mood in Greek grammars and when parsing verbs.


The mood of a verb represents its relation to reality as portrayed by the speaker. An action (or an event) can be presented as being 1) real, or 2) potential.

  • If the action is being portrayed as real (or actual), the indicative mood will be used. This is the most frequent mood used in the New Testament and it occurs 15,643 times.
  • This does not mean that the action portrayed is real. The speaker could be lying. He could be telling a parable, a make-believe story, exaggerating, or just be wrong. In all of these cases the statement is presented as being real. See table VM-2 below or Indicative_Mood
  • If an action is being portrayed as potential, the subjunctive, optative, or imperative mood will be used.

    • The subjunctive mood is used to portray a probable or desired action.
    • Therefore it is used when the action is viewed as being possible if certain conditions are met.
    • It may also be used if the action is viewed as probable.
    • Verbs occur in the subjunctive mood 1,868 times.
    • See Table VM-3 below or Subjunctive_Mood
    • The optative mood is used to express something that is possible.
    • Therefore, it is used to express a wish, something hoped for, or a prayer. (Prayers may also be expressed using the imperative mood.)
    • The optative mood is the least used mood in the New Testament. Verbs occur in the optative mood only 70 times.
    • See Table VM-4 below or Optative_Mood
    • The imperative mood is used to express a command.

      In addition, the imperative mood is often used when directing someone to carry out an action (if their carrying out that action is dependent upon an act of their will).

      • Prayers are often expressed in the imperative mood as are petitions.
      • Requests to a superior are also expressed in the imperative mood when there is an expectation that the thing requested would be something that the superior would grant.
      • Verbs occur in the imperative mood 1,877 times.
      • See Table VM-5 below or Imperative_Mood

The following chart should help to demonstrate these differences.

English Translation of Moods - Table VM-1

Table VM-1  English Translation of Moods
Mood Indicative Subjunctive Optative Imperative
λέγεις λέγῃς λέγοις λέγε
Portrayal Certain/Actual
or Asserted
Possible Intended
Translation You Speak/
You are speaking
You might
You should
be speaking
You may
be speaking

Examples of the four moods:

Indicative Example - Table VM-2

Table VM-2 Indicative mood
Mark 1:8      
ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι
egō ebaptisa hymas hydati
I I baptized you with water

I baptized you with water

Subjunctive Example - Table VM-3

Table VM-3 Subjunctive mood
Mark 6:12        
καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκήρυξαν ἵνα μετανοῶσιν
kai exelthontes ekēryxan hina metanoōsin
and having gone out they proclaimed that they should repent

And having gone out, they proclaimed that people should repent.

Optative Example - Table VM-4

Table VM-4 Optative mood
Romans 3:4  
μὴ γένοιτο!
Not may it be

May it never be

Imperative Example - Table VM-5

Table VM-5 Imperative mood
Mark 16:15          
κηρύξατε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει.
kēryxate to euangelion pasē ktisei.
You all preach the gospel to all the creation

preach the gospel to the entire creation.