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Mood vs. Tense

By: Maeve Maddox

From: Daily Writing Tips

Many people are not quite clear as to the difference between the grammatical terms mood and tense. For example, I’ve seen such expressions as “subjunctive tense” and “progressive mood.”

Because both tense and mood have to do with verbs, the confused terminology is understandable. Tense, however, refers to time, whereas mood refers to manner of expression.

Tense
The three possible divisions of time are past, present, and future. For each, there is a corresponding verb tense:

Present: He walks now.
Past: Yesterday he walked.
Future: Tomorrow he will walk.

Each of these tenses has a corresponding complete tense: perfect, past perfect (pluperfect), and future perfect:

Perfect: He has walked every morning since Monday.
Past Perfect: He had walked a mile by the time we joined him.
Future Perfect: By tomorrow, he will have walked twenty miles.

Each of these tenses has a continuous or progressive form:

Present Continuous: I am still walking.
Past Continuous: I was still walking when you phoned.
Future Continuous: I shall/will be walking when you reach town.
Perfect Continuous: I have been walking since early morning.
Past Perfect Continuous: I had been walking for an hour when you phoned.
Future Perfect Continuous: When you see me, I shall have been walking for six hours.

Mood
Mood is the form of the verb that shows the mode or manner in which a thought is expressed. Mood distinguishes between an assertion, a wish, or a command. The corresponding moods are: Indicative (assertion), Subjunctive (wish), and Imperative (command).

Note: Unlike some languages, English does not have an “Interrogative Mood”; questions are formed by changing word order and not by altering the verb.

The word indicative derives from Latin indicare, “to declare or state.” Indicative Mood expresses an assertion, denial, or question about something:

Assertion: I liked him very much before he did that.
Denial: He is not going to remain on my list of friends.
Question: Will you continue to see him?

The word imperative derives from Latin imperare, “to command.” Imperative Mood expresses command, prohibition, entreaty, or advice:

Command: Go thou and do likewise.
Prohibition: Stay out of Mr. MacGregor’s garden!
Entreaty: Remember us in your prayers.
Advice: Beware of the dog.

The “true subjunctive” equivalent to the Latin Optative Mood (opare, “to wish”) is rare in modern English. Examples of the “true” subjunctive: “If I were king,” “God save the Queen!”

In most contexts dealing with unreal situations, speakers used a mixed subjunctive. The use of the auxiliaries may, might, should, and would creates a mixed subjunctive in which one verb is in subjunctive and another in indicative mood:

If I should see him, I will tell him.
He came that they might have life.

According to the Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar,

the distinctive subjunctive forms are now confined to the verb be and to the third-singular forms of other verbs; they are still common in American English, while in British English they are confined to very formal styles.

In American English, the subjunctive often occurs with the following verbs:

suggest: I suggest that she refuse his offer.
demand: They are demanding that he go to London for an interview.
propose: The father proposed that his son be locked up to teach him a lesson.
insist: We all insisted that he accept treatment.

British usage tends to use should in such constructions: I suggest that she should refuse his offer.

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Prepositional idioms

Prepositional idioms are tricky in any language. Here are some tips for using in and on with expressions of time.

For months, years and long periods like centuries, use in.
For days and dates, use on.
For precise times use at.
 
Meet me at 8 p.m.
The children played at recess.

Some common expressions vary the pattern:
in the morning, but on Monday morning
in the mornings, but on Wednesday mornings
in the afternoon but on Sunday afternoon

NOTE: Although we say in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening, we say at night. Ex. Milk is delivered in the morning. The stars come out at night. BUT We heard a noise in the night.

Some time expressions do not require a preposition:
I went to Sicily last May.
He’s giving a speech next Friday.
My children visit every Thanksgiving.
What are you doing this afternoon?

Talking about the weekend admits of variation:
Do you work weekends?
Do you work on the weekend?
(American usage)
Do you work at the weekend? (British usage)

BBC Learning English on, in and at with time expressions.

From: Daily Writing Tips

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Rules for Writing Dialogue

  1. Dialogue should stay on topic,
  2. Use dialogue as you would regular speech,
  3. Opt for the speaker said over all others,
  4. Avoid long speeches,
  5. Sound like the character, right down to accent and incorrect grammar
  6. Show what the characters are doing while they’re talking,
  7. Keep characters’ speech consistent.

When breaking the rules makes sense…

How many rules have you broken and why? Breaking these rules can be helpful and useful or it can be a sign of poor writing. Writer’s Digest magazine warns, however, “Words can be barbs. They can be sabers. They can be jewels. Don’t let them be marshmallows that are passed back and forth.” Dialog is the most useful technique writers have to define and develop characters, move the story, and provide background. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules. Knowing when to use them and when to break them is the difference between ‘writing’ and ‘good writing’.

An editor comes to the rescue…

You think it sounds just about perfect, your spouse and a few lodge friends love it. But is it ready for submission. An editor could be just what you need to put your manuscript over the top. By editor, I’m talking about a professional editor, not a friend or relative—an unbiased individual who will give you a professional evaluation of your manuscript.

 

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Seven rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them, so the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

From:
– Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

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