In view of growing interest in tensor modes and their possible detection, we clarify the definition of tensor modes up to 2nd order in perturbation theory within the Hamiltonian formalism. Like in gauge theory, in cosmology the Hamiltonian is a suitable and consistent approach to reduce the gauge degrees of freedom. In this paper we employ the Faddeev-Jackiw method of Hamiltonian reduction. An appropriate set of gauge invariant variables that describe the dynamical degrees of freedom may be obtained by suitable canonical transformations in the phase space. We derive a set of gauge invariant variables up to 2nd order in perturbation expansion and for the first time we reduce the 3rd order action without adding gauge fixing terms. In particular, we are able to show the relation between the uniform-ϕ and Newtonian slicings, and study the difference in the definition of tensor modes in these two slicings.