The somber mood at a funeral. Image by Daily Mail.

The somber mood at a funeral. Image by Daily Mail.

Register Tone and Mood

Tone and mood are often wrongly used inter-changeably although they are in some instances similar in meaning. Their differences can be more easily demonstrated when they are used in context.


Tone refers to pitch, quality and strength of a person’s voice when conversing. It is normally possible to tell whether a person is angry, joyous, sad, hostile, menacing or excited among other things by the tone of his or her voice. A person’s voice is usually laced with emotion such as joy, sadness or anger depending with the situation in which they find themselves in. It is this tone that creates the mood of the exchange.

For example a doctor walks out of the operating theater with a serious look on his face and approaches the relatives of a patient who have been anxiously waiting for news on the status of the loved one and says,” I am sorry we tried everything, but Mr. Jones has passed away.” His tone can be described as serious and the resulting mood can be described as being that of sadness.

There are many types of tones for example: witty, harsh, light-hearted, assertive, sardonic, cynical, aggressive, sarcastic, mocking or playful. We can also describe a tone as being formal or informal depending on the circumstances.


As has already been mentioned mood is created by tone. It can be described as the prevailing atmosphere within which an exchange takes place and it is usually created by the tone of the speakers. For example the mood can be somber, sorrowful, sad,gloomy, relaxed, happy or merry.

We can say a person was upset by the insults they received, the bride was in a joyous mood on her wedding night, the crowd was mad with rage after a kombie driver run over a toddler, the Member of Parliament was disappointed after losing an election or he was in mourning after his brother died. All these reveal the mood or prevailing emotional state of people in certain circumstances.


1. “I think I could have done better in Maths if the teacher had been more patient with me.”

“Quite true, judging by the poor results you got in other subjects.”

i) What does the first speaker’s tone reveal about their mood?

ii) What does the second speaker reveal about their tone?


i) He/She is sad and a little resentful.

ii) She/He is being sarcastic.

Go to the English Notes Home to view a list of common tones and moods.