The Unreal Mood is used to state things that are not necessarily true. They may fictitious or impossible, but they can also be realistic, so long as they haven’t actually happened yet or are happening at the moment. It doesn’t quite matter whether a situation is in fact true; what matters is whether the speaker of a sentence believes it to be certain or not.
We sometimes make complex sentences in which one clause is an unreal cause and the other clause is the result. These are called Conditionals. There are different types of Conditionals, based mostly on verb tenses, but Insights’s method bypasses the different types and considers instead how conditionals work as a whole. (The Zero Conditional does not express an unreal verb phrase, but it has no specific instance either.)
When we need to stress that a clause is unreal, we backshift the verbs. Backshifting is the process of altering a verb form so that it matches a tense normally set further in the past than the original verb form. For example, to express a present meaning, we use a past form. Backshifting is done to express uncertainty or perceived unlikelihood or impossibility, and is therefore regularly used for the Unreal Mood.
When we talk about how we wish things were different from how they really are or were, we use a structure that’s a little different from simple declarative sentences. We begin with some special expressions that lead into unreal sentiments. The method featured here goes through the three parts to forming sentences about wishes or regrets. This overlaps with the topic that some coursebooks call ‘Unreal Past’.