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Newsletter February 24 - 2010FREE email English course
If you get out of bed the wrong side, which means you are feeling bad tempered, you are described as being in a bad mood. On the other hand if the birds are singing, everything in the garden is lovely and you feel on top of the world (all expressions to describe a happy and contented state of mind), you could well be described as being in a good mood. Incidentally the adjective 'moody' only has a bad sense suggesting a temporary state of being bad tempered .Now I am sure from what I have said you have got the meaning of the word 'mood'. But then you might have guessed that there's more than one meaning to its name as often happens with English words.

Just when you think you've mastered one meaning, another one crops up (appears). And you are right. Moods grammatically speaking come in three brands: indicative subjunctive and imperative. They really describe what form the verb takes and the function it fulfils. The indicative one simply says what a thing is and the imperative usually gives an order or command. So, indicative: The door is shut. Imperative: Shut the door! And that leaves the subjunctive, which is in very poor health in English at the moment. In fact there are those who'd like to kill it outright. The best way to describe it is that it it's used for what you wish or what is a hypothesis or theory.

But look on the bright side because it's so discreet, you don't really know it's there. In some languages the verb changes completely but in English we've cut it down to size and it only shows up with the verb 'be'. You can see it in the expression: If I were you. Now clearly I can't be you and you can't be me. So this is just a theory. But even in that form it's giving way to 'If I was you'. Purists, fusspots and the grammar fanatics tut- tut at this latest fashion. That's the noise they make to show their disapproval. And that brings me to that two letter word I've already used three times so far - 'if'.

It's only small but it moves around a lot. It's even been used as the title of a poem by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Let me give you a few snatches:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run.

Anyhow, if you can do all these things and more, you will have grown up into an adult, says Rudyard.

But back to the ordinary and mundane. This clever little two-letter mover operates on lower levels, too. Take this: If you think I'm going to accept that, you've got another think coming' Good expression that suggesting you are not going to be threatened by someone. Here are a few polite 'ifs': If you don't mind, I think I'll have my tea a bit later today.

If it's all right with you, I'll come to work later tomorrow. If you can give me a lift in your car tonight, I'd be most grateful. If you've heard this story before, please stop me. I ought to use that one because I'm sure I repeat myself on www.english-test.net . It gets stylish, too when you don't want to commit yourself and joins company with 'not': It was a tasty if not delicious meal. You say that when you can't make your mind up and as we say, sit on the fence.

But it really comes into its own in the world of dreams and possibilities. If I win the competition, I'll take us all out to dinner. That's still on the cards (a possibility). Your chances are a little less likely with this: If I won the competition, I would take us all out to dinner. In other words it's not advisable to book a table just yet in that restaurant you all like. And then when you didn't win but you really want everyone one to know what a generous person you are: If I had won the competition, I would have taken us all out to dinner.

But no more hesitation, no more delays or as we say, No more ifs and buts. I think the time has come to say good bye for the moment. I'll be back later if that's all right with you.

Alan Townend

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Are you a snob?It all adds up
With best wishesThere's always a possibility
BOGOFLove is all you need
Idiomatically speakingA word in your ear: Hand
A word in your ear: NerveDo you mean that?
A word in your ear: ConsiderWhodunit
My languageA word in your ear: Care
A word in your ear: ThoughtAbout time
Perfect timeCrossing the Atlantic?
All In The Family 
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