Generic mood

The generic mood, in linguistics, is a mood used to make generalized comments about a class of thing. In English, generic verbs are not morphologically distinct from indicative. In most cases, generic statements can only be recognized by context and linguistic experience. For instance, the sentence "Elephants are gray" could, strictly, be either generic or indicative. However, it is generally recognized as generic, because the word "elephants" is not preceded by an article. If the sentence were reframed as "The elephants are gray", then it would seem to be an indicative statement, describing the nature of certain individual elephants. However, it could, in a strict sense, be a generic sentence as well, meaning what would generally be expressed as "Certain elephants are gray". The sentence "Elephants are white", if referring to certain white elephants, could be technically accurate. However, since it follows the pattern of a generic sentence, it would seem to be incorrect. Certain formations are less ambiguous, however. The sentence "A mother can always tell", for example, would never be regarded as an indicative sentence describing the nature of a particular mother, but as a generic sentence describing the intuitive abilities of mothers in general. To communicate the former concept, one would have to use the circumlocutive "A particular mother can always tell", or "This mother can always tell", etc.

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