Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Irrealis moods

Irrealis moods

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Irrealis moods'
Start a new discussion about 'Irrealis moods'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Irrealis moods are the main set of grammatical mood
Grammatical mood
In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

s that indicate that a certain situation or action is not known to have happened as the speaker is talking.

Every language has a formula for the unreal. The Indian languages of the Pacific Northwest have as many as five levels of "unreality", which are of real and practical use in a hunting society.

Subjunctive


E.g.: "If I loved you..."

The subjunctive mood, sometimes called conjunctive mood, has several uses in dependent clause
Dependent clause
In linguistics, a dependent clause is a clause that augments an independent clause with additional information, but which cannot stand alone as a sentence. Dependent clauses modify the independent clause of a sentence or serve as a component of it...

s. Examples include discussing hypothetical or unlikely events, expressing opinions or emotions, or making polite requests (the exact scope is language-specific). A subjunctive mood exists in English, but it often is not obligatory. Example: "I suggested that Paul eat an apple", Paul is not in fact eating an apple. Contrast this with the sentence "Paul eats an apple", where the verb "to eat" is in the present tense, indicative mood. Another way, especially in British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

, of expressing this might be "I suggested that Paul should eat an apple", derived from "Paul should eat an apple."

Other uses of the subjunctive in English, as in "And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass..." (KJV Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

 5:7), have become archaic. Statements such as "I shall ensure that he leave immediately" often sound overly formal, and often have been supplanted by constructions with the indicative, such as "I shall ensure that he leaves immediately".

The subjunctive mood figures prominently in the grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

 of the Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, which require this mood for certain types of dependent clauses. This point commonly causes difficulty for English speakers learning these languages.

In certain other languages, the dubitative or the conditional moods may be employed instead of the subjunctive in referring to doubtful or unlikely events (see the main article).

Conditional


E.g.: "I would love you."

The conditional mood (abbreviated ) is used to speak of an event whose realization is dependent upon another condition, particularly, but not exclusively, in conditional sentence
Conditional sentence
In grammar, conditional sentences are sentences discussing factual implications or hypothetical situations and their consequences. Languages use a variety of conditional constructions and verb forms to form such sentences....

s. In Modern English, it is a periphrastic construction
Compound verb
In linguistics, a compound verb or complex predicate is a multi-word compound that acts as a single verb. One component of the compound is a light verb or vector, which carries any inflections, indicating tense, mood, or aspect, but provides only fine shades of meaning...

, with the form would + infinitive, e.g. I would buy. In other languages, such as Spanish or French, verbs have a specific conditional inflection
Inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

. This applies also to some verbs in German, in which the conditional mood is conventionally called Konjuntiv II, differing from Konjunktiv I. Thus, the conditional version of "John eats if he is hungry" is:
John would eat if he were hungry, in English;
Johannes äße, wenn er hungrig wäre, in German;
Jean mangerait s'il avait faim, in French;
Juan comería si tuviera hambre, in Spanish.


Johannes würde essen, wenn er Hunger hätte is also acceptable in German.

In the Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, the conditional form is used primarily in the apodosis
Apodosis
Apodosis may refer to:*In linguistics, the main clause in a conditional sentence*In logic, the apodosis corresponds to the consequent; ....

 (main clause) of conditional clauses, and in a few set phrase
Set phrase
A set phrase or fixed phrase is a phrase whose parts are fixed, even if the phrase could be changed without harming the literal meaning. This is because a set phrase is a culturally accepted phrase. A set phrase does not necessarily have any literal meaning in and of itself. Set phrases may...

s where it expresses courtesy or doubt. The main verb in the protasis
Protasis (linguistics)
In linguistics, a protasis is the subordinate clause in a conditional sentence. For example, in "if X, then Y", the protasis is "if X"...

 (dependent clause) is either in the subjunctive or in the indicative mood. However, this is not a universal trait: among others in German (as above) and in Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 the conditional mood is used in both the apodosis and the protasis. A further example is the sentence "I would buy a house if I earned a lot of money", where in Finnish both clauses have the conditional marker -isi-: Ostaisin talon, jos ansaitsisin paljon rahaa. In Polish the conditional marker -by also appears twice: Kupiłbym dom, gdybym zarabiał dużo pieniędzy. Because English is used as a lingua franca, a similar kind of doubling of the word would is a fairly common way to misuse an English language construction.

In English, too, the would + infinitive construct can be employed in main clauses, with a subjunctive
Subjunctive mood
In grammar, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of irreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred....

 sense: "If you would only tell me what is troubling you, I might be able to help".

Optative



The optative mood expresses hopes, wishes or commands and has other uses that may overlap with the subjunctive mood. Few languages have an optative as a distinct mood; some that do are Albanian
Albanian language
Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by approximately 7.6 million people, primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and northwestern Greece...

, Ancient Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

, and all forms of the Persian language (Avestan, Old Persian, Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

, New Persian).

In Finnish, the mood may be called an "archaic" or "formal imperative", even if it has other uses; nevertheless, it does express formality at least. For example, the ninth Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 begins with Älköön ketään pidätettäkö mielivaltaisesti, "Not anyone shall be arrested arbitrarily", where älköön pidätettäkö "shall not be arrested" is the optative of ei pidätetä "is not arrested". (Also, using the conditional mood -isi- in conjunction with the clitic -pa yields an optative meaning, e.g. olisinpa "if I only were". Here, it is evident that the wish is not, and probably will not be fulfilled.)

In Sanskrit, the optative is formed by adding the secondary endings to the verb stem. The optative, as other moods, is known in active voice and medium voice. Examples: bhares "may you bear" (active) and bharethaas "may you bear [for yourself]" (medium). The optative may not only express wishes, requests and commands, but also possibilities, e.g. kadaacid goshabdena budhyeta "he might perhaps wake up due to the bellowing of cows"., doubt and uncertainty, e.g. katham vidyaam Nalam "how would I be able to recognize Nala?" The optative may further be used instead of a conditional mood
Conditional mood
In linguistics, the conditional mood is the inflectional form of the verb used in the independent clause of a conditional sentence to refer to a hypothetical state of affairs, or an uncertain event, that is contingent on another set of circumstances...

.

Jussive



The jussive mood (abbreviated ) expresses plea, insistence, imploring, self-encouragement, wish, desire, intent, command, purpose or consequence. In some languages, the two are distinguished in that cohortative occurs in the first person and the jussive in the second or third. It is found in Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, where it is called the مجزوم majzūm. The rules governing the jussive in Arabic are somewhat complex.

Potential


The potential mood (abbreviated ) is a mood of probability indicating that, in the opinion of the speaker, the action or occurrence is considered likely. It is used in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

, Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

, Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 and in the Sami languages
Sami languages
Sami or Saami is a general name for a group of Uralic languages spoken by the Sami people in parts of northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and extreme northwestern Russia, in Northern Europe. Sami is frequently and erroneously believed to be a single language. Several names are used for the Sami...

. (In Japanese it is often called something like tentative, since potential is used to refer to a voice indicating capability to perform the action.)

In Finnish, it is mostly a literary device, as it has virtually disappeared from daily spoken language in most dialects. Its suffix is -ne-, as in *men + ne + e → mennee "(s/he/it) will probably go". Some kinds of consonant clusters simplify to geminates
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

. This simplification occurs progressively (*rne → rre) with the resonant consonants l, r, and s, and regressively with stops (*tne → nne) and is meant to prevent the violation of phonotactical
Phonotactics
Phonotactics is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes...

 rules concerning sonority hierarchy
Sonority hierarchy
A sonority hierarchy or sonority scale is a ranking of speech sounds by amplitude. For example, if you say the vowel [a], you will produce a much louder sound than if you say the plosive [t]...

. For example, korjata → *korjat + ne + t → korjannet "you will probably fix", or tulla → *tul + ne + e → tullee "s/he/it will probably come". The potential mood can be used only in present and perfect tenses. The verb ole- "be" is replaced by lie, so that "(it) is probably" is lienee (not *ollee). Thus, in the perfect tense, which is formed with an auxiliary verb, the auxiliary verb lie is used instead of ole- as liene-, e.g. lienet korjannut "you have probably fixed" (not *ollet korjannut). In spoken language, the word kai "probably" is used instead, e.g. se kai tulee "he probably comes", instead of hän tullee.

Imperative


The imperative mood expresses direct commands, requests, and prohibitions. In many circumstances, using the imperative mood may sound blunt or even rude, so it is often used with care. Example: "Paul, do your homework now". An imperative is used to tell someone to do something without argument.

Many languages, including English, use the bare verb stem to form the imperative (such as "go", "run", "do"). Other languages, such as Seri
Seri language
Seri is a language isolate spoken by the Seri people by between 716 and 900 people in two villages on the coast of Sonora, Mexico.-Classification:...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, however, use special imperative forms.

In English, second person is implied by the imperative except when first-person plural is specified, as in "Let's go" ("Let us go").

The prohibitive mood, the negative imperative may be grammatically or morphologically different from the imperative mood in some languages. It indicates that the action of the verb is not permitted, e.g. "Do not go!" (archaically, "Go not!")

In English, the imperative is sometimes used to form a conditional sentence
Conditional sentence
In grammar, conditional sentences are sentences discussing factual implications or hypothetical situations and their consequences. Languages use a variety of conditional constructions and verb forms to form such sentences....

: e.g. "Go eastwards a mile, and you will see it" means "If you go eastward a mile, you will see it".

Desiderative



Whereas the optative expresses hopes, the desiderative mood expresses wishes and desires. Desires are what we want to be the case; hope generally implies optimism toward the chances of a desire's fulfillment. If someone desires something but is pessimistic about its chances of occurring, then one desires it but does not hope for it. Few languages have a distinct desiderative mood; some that do are Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 and Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

.

In Japanese the verb inflection -tai expresses the speaker's desire, e.g. watashi wa asoko ni ikitai "I want to go there". This form is treated as a pseudo-adjective: the auxiliary verb garu is used by dropping the end -i of an adjective to indicate the outward appearance of another's mental state, in this case the desire of a person other than the speaker (e.g. Jon wa tabetagatte imasu "John wants to eat").

In Sanskrit, the infix -sa-, sometimes -isa-, is added to the replicated root, e.g. jijiivishati "he wants to live" instead of jivati "he lives". The desiderative in Sanskrit may also be used as imminent: mumuurshati "he is about to die".

Dubitative



The dubitative mood is used in Ojibwe
Ojibwe language
Ojibwe , also called Anishinaabemowin, is an indigenous language of the Algonquian language family. Ojibwe is characterized by a series of dialects that have local names and frequently local writing systems...

, Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, and other languages. It expresses the speaker's doubt or uncertainty about the event denoted by the verb. For example, in Ojibwe, Baawitigong igo ayaa noongom translates as "he is in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 today." When the dubitative suffix -dog is added, this becomes Baawitigong igo ayaadog noongom, "I guess he must be in California.

Hypothetical


Eg: "I could love you [if...]"

The hypothetical mood, found in Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, Lakota
Lakota language
Lakota is a Siouan language spoken by the Lakota people of the Sioux tribes. While generally taught and considered by speakers as a separate language, Lakota is mutually understandable with the other two languages , and is considered by most linguists one of the three major varieties of the Sioux...

, and other languages, expresses a counterfactual
Counterfactual
Counterfactual may refer to:* Counterfactual conditional, a grammatical form * Counterfactual subjunctive, grammatical forms which in English are known as the past and pluperfect forms of the subjunctive mood* Counterfactual thinking* Counterfactual history* Alternate history, a literary genre*...

 but possible event or situation.

Presumptive


E.g.: There is no exact English example, although it could be translated as: "[Even] If I loved you [...]"

The presumptive mood is used in Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 to express presupposition or hypothesis regarding the fact denoted by the verb, as well as other more or less similar attitudes: doubt, curiosity, concern, condition, indifference, inevitability. For example, acolo s-o fi dus "he might have gone there" shows the basic presupposition use, while the following excerpt from a poem by Eminescu shows the use both in a conditional clause de-o fi "suppose it is" and in a main clause showing an attitude of submission to fate le-om duce "we would bear".
De-o fi una, de-o fi alta... Ce e scris și pentru noi,
Bucuroși le-om duce toate, de e pace, de-i război.

Be it one, be it the other... Whatever fate we have,
We will gladly go through all, be it peace or be it war

Permissive


The permissive mood indicates that the action is permitted by the speaker.

Admirative



The admirative mood (abbreviated ) is used to express surprise, but also doubt, irony, sarcasm, etc. In Indo-European languages, the admirative, unlike the optative, is not one of the original moods, but a later development. Admirative constructs occur in Balkan Slavic (Bulgarian and Macedonian), Tosk Albanian
Tosk Albanian
Tosk is the southern dialect of the Albanian language. The line of demarcation between Tosk and Gheg is the Shkumbin River. Tosk is the basis of the standard Albanian language.- Tosks :...

, and Megleno-Romanian. A form of the admirative, derived from the Albanian pattern, can be found in Frasheriote Arumanian.

Hortative



The hortative mood (alternatively, "hortatory") is used to express plea, insistence, imploring, self-encouragement, wish, desire, intent, command, purpose or consequence. It does not exist in English, but phrases such as "let us" are often used to denote it. In Latin, it is interchangeable with the jussive.

Eventive


The eventive mood is used in the Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 epic poem Kalevala
Kalevala
The Kalevala is a 19th century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology.It is regarded as the national epic of Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature...

. It is a combination of the potential and the conditional. It is also used in dialects of Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

. In Finnish, there are theoretically forms such as kävelleisin "I would probably walk".

Precative


E.g.: "Will you love me?"

Precative (abbreviated ) mood is a grammatical mood which signifies requests, e.g. "Will you pass me the salt?"

Volitive



The volitive mood (abbreviated ) is used to indicate the speaker's desires, wishes, or fears.

Inferential or renarrative


The inferential mood (abbreviated  or ) is used to report a nonwitnessed event without confirming it, but the same forms also function as admiratives in the Balkan languages in which they occur. The inferential mood is used in some languages such as Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 to convey information about events, which were not directly observed or were inferred by the speaker. When referring to Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

 and other Balkan languages, it is often called renarrative mood; when referring to Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

, it is called oblique mood. The inferential is usually impossible to be distinguishably translated into English. For instance, indicative Bulgarian той отиде (toy otide) and Turkish o gitti will be translated the same as inferential той отишъл (toy otishal) and o gitmiş — with the English indicative he went.' Using the first pair, however, implies very strongly that the speaker either witnessed the event or is very sure that it took place. The second pair implies either that the speaker did not in fact witness it take place, that it occurred in the remote past or that there is considerable doubt as to whether it actually happened. If it were necessary to make the distinction, then the English constructions "he must have gone" or "he is said to have gone" would partly translate the inferential.

Interrogative



The interrogative mood (abbreviated ) is used for asking questions. Most languages do not have a special mood for asking questions, but Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 and Nenets do.

External links



From SIL: