Mode (grammar)

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The mode (Pl. Modi , from Latin modus ' measure ' ; manner'; dt. The statement ) is a conjugation parameter or a grammatical category of the verb . In the grammar of German there are indicative , subjunctive and imperative modes , in the Romance languages ​​also subjunctive and conditional . Grammatical modes can be divided into real and unreal modes.

The forms of the grammatical modes sometimes appear on the basis of purely morphosyntactic rules. So z. B. certain verbs or conjunctions require a certain mode of the verb of their subordinate clause (example: the Latin conjunction ut, dt. That, governs the subjunctive on the following verb). In addition, the appearance of the modes is also controlled in terms of content. The mode is then one of the means of expression for the concepts of modality .

Reality and unreality

According to the British linguist Frank R. Palmer , grammatical modes can be brought into a system that has the two poles of reality and unreality , depending on whether the mode relates to real events or facts or to events that have not (yet) taken place to have.

There are languages ​​that map this dichotomy directly - for example, North American Indian languages ​​such as Caddo - and others whose mode system is less clear in this regard.

Real modes

Real modes are used to express factual events or general truths:

Unreal modes

Unreal modes mark events that have not actually happened (yet), but whose occurrence is desired, considered possible or whose occurrence depends on other conditions (“what if”). The unreal modes include:

  • Imperative (command, especially to the 2nd person), jussive (command to the 3rd person), adhortative (command to the 1st person plural, the request for joint action)
  • Optative - wish form to express wishes, partly weakened instructions
  • Nezessitative - necessity form
  • Potentialis - marks events that the speaker considers possible in principle
  • Conditionalis - the occurrence of one event depends on the occurrence of another event.

Use in German

to form

In German there are three inflected verb modes: indicative (reality form), subjunctive (possibility form) and imperative (command form). The indicative and subjunctive can grammatically map different content functions.


Inflected verb forms

The indicative is used to make statements about events that actually take place / have taken place, for example "The dog is wagging its tail" (it actually wags), or for general statements ("Dogs wag their tails when they rejoice"). Sometimes the indicative can also be used as a substitute for the imperative, for example in the passive: “Now we are sleeping!”.

The subjunctive is used as a subjunctive I for rendering indirect speech ("He said he was tired"), as an optative ("He rest in peace", no longer productive), as a jussive ("Take two eggs") and , no longer recognizable as the subjunctive I, used as an adhortative (“Let's go eat!”).

The subjunctive II is mainly used for unreal conditional structures that are completely impossible ("He would have come earlier if he had got up on time") or in principle possible, but not yet occurred ("If I lead into town, I could still go shopping" ). Wishes are also possible which, depending on the context, can be fulfilled (“I would like a pretzel”, “more polite” subjunctive) or impossible (“I would like to be by the sea”).

The imperative is only used for commands (“Throw me the ball!”).

Mode marking on modal verbs

Modal verbs, also modal auxiliary verbs, expand the expressive possibilities of German in the area of ​​epistemic and deontic modality, for example “Ich muss go” (necessity, deontic) or “Es may rain” (possibility, epistemic). In combination with the subjunctive, additional uses appear, such as paraphrasing the optative ("May he rest in peace", subjunctive I + like) or the potential ("I could paint my room blue", subjunctive II +).

Use in other languages

The conditional is seen as a separate mode in Romance languages .

The indicative is most often used in German, but the subjunctive also has many uses, for example for rendering indirect speech , which is particularly common in news texts and reports . The infinitive is also frequently used in German, for example in verbal constructs such as “You can go now ” or as a substitute for the imperative (“Don't lean out of the window !”).

The term subjunctive is used in German as a synonym for the subjunctive and in other languages ​​as the main designation for the mode corresponding to the subjunctive (e.g. English: subjunctive [mode / mood] next to conjunctive [mode / mood] ; Spanish: [modo] subjuntivo ; French: [mode] subjonctif next to [mode] conjonctif ). The ways in which it is used can differ from that of the German subjunctive.

In other languages ​​there are sometimes other modes, such as the jussive (for example in Persian ; rendering of the jussive in German can be done with the help of the 3rd person singular / plural subjunctive I ("take his book"), but that is uncommon), the energic (for example in Arabic ), the optative , which is typical of ancient Greek , Turkish , Finnish and Albanian. Further modes are the conditional (for example in Romance languages ​​to express a possible reality), the suppositive for expressing a presumption (Turkish), the renarrativ (for example in Bulgarian for reproducing information from second hand), the interrogative (for example in Eskimo Languages ​​such as Greenlandic ). In the Indo-European basic language there is a very original "basic mode" injective , which has no formal identification and only the duration of an action (in the aorist : punctual action with duration "absolutely zero", in the present tense: continuous action or repeated action with duration "potentially infinite" ) expresses, but does not reflect, whether this action takes place in the past, present or future.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ FR Palmer: Mood and Modality . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1986, ISBN 0-521-31930-7 .
  2. Lynette R. Melnar: Caddo Verb Morphology . University of Nebraska Press, Lawrence 2004, ISBN 0803232209 .
  3. Edisa Shahini: The Albanian Admirative in comparison with the modes of German. In: Diploma thesis at the University of Vienna, Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies. 2009, accessed June 6, 2019 .
  4. Engel, Ulrich: German grammar. Julius Groos Verlag, Heidelberg 1996, ISBN 3-87276-752-6 , Chapter V6.4.