If tenses convey the time at which something takes place then a mood is the form of the verb that conveys the speakers attitude towards the action they are describing. French has 6 moods:
This is the most common mode used for stating facts:
Je suis un homme – I am a man,
J’ai mangé une pomme – I ate an apple
Vous aimez lire les livres – You like reading books
This mood is used to give commands, and the subject is usually left out:
Ferme la porte – Close the door
Ne mange pas ça ! – Don’t eat that!
Dépêches-toi !- Hurry up!
Unsurprisingly this mood is used to state that something could happen or would have happened if a condition is met:
J’irais au magasin si je voulais plus de lait – I would go to the shop if I wanted more milk.
Elle aurait gagné si elle avait essayé un peu plus – She would have won if she had tried harder.
Although the condition doesn’t always need to be stated, sometimes it’s implied:
Vous auriez aimé la pièce – You would have liked the play (if you had gone to see it).
Je voudrais une bière s’il vous plait – I would like a beer please (if you have one).
The subjunctive is used for unreality or subjectivity in the viewpoint of the speaker and is used to express feelings towards another persons actions. It’s a bit tricky for us native English speaker because we tend to reword the subjunctive so we can use the imperative mood:
Je veux qu’il soit heureux – I want him to be happy (I want that he be happy)
J’aime qu’elle lave la voiture – I like that she is washing the car.
An impersonal mood expressing simultaneity, or that two things are happening at the same time. These are “-ing” words (gerunds) in English, however, the English gerund is often substituted with the infinitive when it does not refer to two actions happening at the same time:
Il tombe en courant – He fell over while running
J’écoute la musique en conduisant – I listen to music while driving
Another impersonal mood that expresses a verbs meaning without specifying a point in time. In English the infinitive is expressed as to + verb, but in French is can also be used in the same way as an English gerund (-ing word acting as a noun):
Il va acheter un gâteau – He is going to buy a cake
Nager est amusant – Swimming is fun.