In general, mood is the feature of the verb that presents the verbal action or state with reference to its actuality or potentiality. Voice indicates how the subject relates to the action or state of the verb; tense is used primarily to portray the kind of action. There are four moods in Greek: indicative, subjunctive, optative, and imperative. See further qualifications in Wallace.
The indicative mood is, in general, the mood of assertion, or presentation of certainty. It is not correct to say that it is the mood of certainty or reality. This belongs to the presentation (i.e., the indicative may present something as being certain or real, though the speaker might not believe it).
1. Declarative Indicative
The indicative is routinely used to present an assertion as a non-contingent (or unqualified) statement. This is by far the most common use.
Mark 4:3 The sower went out to sow.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word.
2. Interrogative Indicative
The indicative can be used in a question. The question expects an assertion to be made; it expects a declarative indicative in the answer. (This contrasts with the subjunctive, which asks a question of moral "oughtness" or obligation, or asks whether something is possible.)
Matt 27:11 Are you the king of the Jews?
John 1:38 He said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi, .. where are you staying?"
3. Conditional Indicative
This is the use of the indicative in the protasis of the conditional sentences. The conditional element is made explicit with the particle ei. the first class condition indicates the assumption of truth for the sake of argument, while the second class condition indicates the assumption of an untruth for the sake of argument.
Matt 12:27 If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?
John 5:46 If you believe Moses, you would believe me.
4. Potential Indicative
The indicative is used with verbs of obligation, wish, or desire, followed by an infinitive. The nature of the verb root, rather than the indicative, is what makes it look like a potential mood in its semantic force.
Luke 11:42 It was necessary [for you] to have done these things.
1Cor 11:7 A man should not cover his head.
5. Cohortative (Command, Volitive) Indicative
The future indicative is sometimes used for a command, almost always in the OT quotations (because of a literal translation of the Hebrew). However, it was used even in classical Greek, though infrequently.
Matt 19:18 You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness.
The subjunctive is the most common of the oblique moods in the N.T. In general, the subjunctive can be said to represent the verbal action (or state) as uncertain but probable. It is not correct to call this the mood of uncertainty because the optative also presents the verb as uncertain. Rather, it is better to call it the mood of probability so as to distinguish it from the optative. Still, this is an overly simplistic definition in light of its usage in the NT.
[Wallace breaks the discussion down into the use of the subjunctive in independent (categories 1-4) and dependent (categories 5-10) clauses.]
1. Hortatory (Volitive) Subjunctive [let us]
The subjunctive is commonly used to exhort or command oneself and one's associates. This use of the subjunctive is used "to urge some one to unite with the speaker in a course of action upon which he has alrady decided" (Chamberlain, 83). Since there is no first person imperative, the hortatory subjunctive is used to do roughly the same task. Thus this use ofl the subjunctive is an exhortation in the first person plural. The typical translation, rather than we should ..., is let us ...
Mark 4:35 And he said to them, ... "Let us go to the other side."
2. Deliberative (Dubitative) Subjunctive
The deliberative subjunctive asks either a real or rhetorical question. The semantics of the two are often quite different. Both imply some doubt about the response, but the real question is usually in the cognitive area (such as "How can we ...?" in which the inquiry is about the means), while the rhetorical question is volitive (e.g., "Should we ...?" in which the question has to do with moral obligation). Both are fairly common with first person verbs, though second and third person verbs can be found. The future indicative is also used in deliberate questions, though the subjunctive is more common.
Matt 6:31 Do not be anxious, saying, "What should we eat?" or "What should we drink?" or "What should we wear?"
Mark 8:37 What can a person give in exchange for his life?
3. Emphatic Negation Subjunctive
Emphatic negation is indicated by ou me plus the aorist subjunctive or, less frequently, ou me plus the future indicative. This is the strongest was to negate something in Greek. One might think that the negative with the subjunctive could not be as strong, as the neative with the indicative. However, while ou + the indicative denies a certainty, ou me + the subjunctive denies a potentiality. ou me rules out even the idea as being a possibility.
Matt 24:35 My words will not at all pass away.
John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will not at all perish.
4. Prohibitive Subjunctive
This is the use of the subjunctive is a prohibition - that is, a negative command. It is used to forbid the occurrence of an action. The structure is usually me + aorist subjunctive, typicaly in the second person. Its force is equivalent to an imperative after me; hence, it should be translated Do not rather than You should not.
Matt 1:20 Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.
5. Subjunctive in Conditional Sentences
This is the use of the subjunctive in the protasis of conditional sentences. The conditional element is made explicit by the particle ean. Both the particle and the subjunctive give the condition a sense of contingency.
Matt 4:9 I will give you all these things, if you will fall down and worship me.
Mark 5:28 She was saying [to hersef], "If only I touch his garments, I will be healed."
6. Ina + the Subjunctive
The single most common category of the subjunctive in the NT is after ina, comprising about one third of all subjunctive instances. There are seven basic uses in this construction: Purpose, result, purpose-result, substantival, complementary, and command.
Matt 12:10 They questioned him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" in order that they might accuse him.
John 9:2 Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, with the result that he should be born blind?
Matt 18:6 [that a millstone should be tied around his neck] is better for him
Luke 7:6 I am not worthy [that you should enter under my roof].
Matt 26:4 They counseled together [to arrest] Jesus in a sly way and to kill (him)].
7. Subjuctive with Verbs of Fearing, Etc.
Me plus the subjunctive can be used after verbs of fearing, warning, watching out for, etc. Not unusual in the better writers (Paul, Luke, Hebrews), this construction serves as a warning or suggests caution or anxiety.
Luke 21:8 Watch out that you are not decieved.
1Cor 8:9 Take care lest somehow this liberty of yours should become a stumbling block to the weak.
8. Subjunctive in Indirect Questions
The subjunctive is sometimes used in indirect questions. In such a usage, it follows the main verb, but appears awkward, even unconnected, in the sentence structure. Because of this, the subjunctive (and its accompanying interrogative particle) needs to be smoothed out in translation.
Matt 15:32 They have already been with me for three days and they do not have anything to eat.
Luke 9:58 The Son of Man has no place where he could lay his head.
9. Subjunctive in Indefinite Relative Clause
The subjunctive is frequently used after ostis (av/ean) or os (d) an. The construction normally indicates a generic (or sometimes an uncertain) subject; hence, the particle of contingency and the need for a subjunctive. The construction is roughly the equivalent of a third class or fifth class condition. The difference is that in indefinite relative clauses the element of contingency is not that of time but of person. Hence, the subjunctive is often translated like an indicative, since the potential element belongs to the subject rather than the verb.
Mark 3:29 Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.
John 4:14 Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again
10. Subjunctive in Indefinite Temporal Clause
The subjunctive is frequently used after a temporal adverb (or improper preposition) meaning until. It indicates a future contingency from the perspective of the time of the main verb.
Matt 5:26 You will not all leave from there until you have paid back the last cent.
John 13:38 The cock will not at all crow until you have denied me three times.
There are less than 70 optatives in the entire NT. In general, it can be said that the optative is the mood used when a speaker wishes to portray an action as possible. It usually addresses cognition, but may be used to appeal to the volition. Along with the subjunctive and imperative, the optative is one of potential or oblique moods.
1. Voluntative Optative (Optative of Obtainable Wish, Volitive Optative)
This is the use of the optative in an independent clause to express an obtainable wish or a prayer. It is frequently an appeal to the will, in particular when used in prayers.
Rom 3:3-4 If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? (4) May it never be! But let God be [found] true, and every man [be found] a liar
2. Potential Optative
This use of the optative occurs with the particle an in the apodosis of an incomplete fourth class condition. It is used to indicate a consequence in the future of an unlikely condition. There are no complete fourth class conditions in the NT. The protasis (which also uses the optative) needs to be supplied. The idea is If he could do something, he would do this. Only a handful of examples occur in the NT, all in Luke's writings.
Luke 1:62 They were making signs to his father as to what he would want to call him
Acts 17:18 Some [of the philosophers] were saying, "What would this babbler say?"
The imperative mood is the mood of intention. It is the mood furthest removed from certainty. Ontologically, as one of the potential or oblique moods, the imperative moves into the realm of volition (involving the imposition of one's will upon another) and possibility.
The imperative is most commonly used for commands, outnumbering prohibitive imperatives about five to one. The basic force of the imperative of command involves somewhat different nuances with each tense. With the aorist, the force generally is to command the action as a whole, without focussing on duration, repetition, etc. In keeping with its aspectual force, the aorist puts forth a summary command. With the present, the force generally is to command the action as an ongoing process. This is in keeping with the present's aspect, which portrays an internal perspective.
Mark 2:14 Follow me!
Mark 6:37 Give them [something] to eat.
The imperative is commonly used to forbid an action. It is simply a negative command me (or a cognate) is used before the imperative to turn the command into a prohibition.
Matt 6:3 Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
3. Request (Entreaty, Polite Command)
The imperative is often used to express a request. This is normally seen when the speaker is addressing a superior. Imperatives (almost always in the aorist tense) directed toward God in prayers fit this category. The request can be a positive one or a negative one (please, do not ...); in such cases the particle me precedes the verb.
Matt 6:10-11 Let your kingdom come, let your will be done ... give us today our daily bread.
Luke 11:1 Lord, teach us [how] to pray
4. Permissive Imperative (Imperative of Toleration)
The imperative is rarely used to connote permission or, better, toleration. This usage does not normally imply that some deed is optional or approved. It often views that act as a fait accompli. In such instances, the mood could almost be called "an imperative of resignation."'
Matt 8:31-32 "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And he said to them, "Go!"
1Cor 7:15 If the unbeliever departs, let him depart
5. As a Stereotyped Greeting
Sometimes the imperative is used in a stereotyped manner in which it has suppressed its original injunctive force. The imperative is reduced to an exclamation. This occurs especially in greetings.
Luke 1:28 Greetings, favored [lady]! The Lord is with you.
John 19:3 Hail, king of the Jews!
Edition: Feb 10,2009