OK, here's a quiz that'll take you back to 8th grade, or as they say in India, 8th form. Name three "modes" of a verb. I'll give you a hint: you can also call them "moods" of the verb. Think now. Morph yourself back to junior high school English class or middle school. Remember those days? Pimples. Hair on your body in places you never had it before. OK. Give up?
All verbs have mode (also called mood), as well as tense, number, and person. The mood reflects the approach you give the verb, that is, indicative, imperative or subjunctive (which many people call "conditional"). The first mood, indicative mood, makes a statement. "I am going to the meeting this afternoon." Imperative mood states a command, "Go to the meeting for me this afternoon." And, the subjunctive mood, which is a little more complicated, often states a condition, leading many people to call it by that term. It could look like this, "If you go to the meeting, would you represent me?"
In this post let's consider the subjunctive mood only. Subjunctive verbs can express a wish and a requirement, but let's just examine the conditional aspect. In this form, the verbs often use these helping verbs: would, could, should, may, and might. I recommend that business writers avoid them. Why? Simply because they suggest indecisiveness.
No executive or group of executives that entrust important studies or proposals to you are going to be satisfied if you report back to them that, "We should consider a merger with Widget, Inc." Even less compelling is the statement, "We might merge with Widget, Inc." No, they want to hear you say, "I recommend that we merge with Widget, Inc." or "I recommend that we avoid Widget, Inc. at all costs." Conditional is too conditional.
OK, here's another quiz. Who uses conditional verbs more, Americans or Asians? Right, Asians use it more often. It's part of the culture. And, when I say Asians, I am also including people from India. I have grown to love all things India, mostly because of my work at Carnegie Mellon University where I have taught hundreds of young people from India and also from my association with a great young company called Cognizant. Over the past ten years I have found the people from India to be the most generous and deferential people I have ever met. And, imagine, I have been teaching them to be less deferential and to stop using the conditional mood so often. Why because it makes these very learned, intelligent people seem unsure of their their recommendations.
Here's your last chance to get an Ed Barr quiz right tonight. Who uses conditional verbs more often, men or women. That's a loaded question, you say! Perhaps. But, let me know what you think. Do men or women use the conditional form of the verb more often? Which gender, on the whole, loads its writing and speaking with "could, would, should, may, might"? If you're really feeling grammatical and communicative, tell also us why the gender you chose uses conditional verbs more often. Above all, though, if you're married and you debate this, don't go to bed mad! That's an imperative!