Need a grammar refresher? Get the Online Grammar Course for TEFL Teachers.
Wishes about the present and future
- wish + past simple is used to express that we want a situation in the present (or future) to be different.
- I wish I spoke Italian. (I don’t speak Italian)
- I wish I had a big car. (I don’t have a big car)
- I wish I was on a beach. (I’m in the office)
- I wish it was the weekend. (It’s only Wednesday)
- wish + past continuous is used to express that we want to be doing a different action in the present (or future).
- I wish I was lying on a beach now. (I’m sitting in the office)
- I wish it wasn’t raining. (It is raining)
- I wish you weren’t leaving tomorrow. (You are leaving tomorrow)
Wishes about the past
wish + past perfect is used to express a regret, or that we want a situation in the past to be different.
- I wish I hadn’t eaten so much. (I ate a lot)
- I wish they’d come on holiday with us. (They didn’t come on holiday)
- I wish I had studied harder at school. (I was lazy at school)
Wish + would
wish + would + bare infinitive is used to express impatience, annoyance or dissatisfaction with a present action.
- I wish you would stop smoking.
- I wish it would stop raining.
- I wish she’d be quiet.
You are smoking at the moment and it is annoying me.
I’m impatient because it is raining and I want to go outside.
I am annoyed because she is speaking.
Wish and hope
To express that you want something to happen in the future (not wanting a situation to be different, and not implying impatience or annoyance) hope is used instead of wish.
- I hope it’s sunny tomorrow.
- I hope she passes her exam next week.
- I hope the plane doesn’t crash tomorrow.
“I wish it was sunny tomorrow” is not correct.
“I wish she were passing her exam next week” is not correct.
“I wish the plane wouldn’t crash tomorrow” is not correct.
Wish and want
wish + infinitive or wish + object + infinitive is used to mean want in a formal situation.
- I wish to leave now. (+ infinitive)
- I wish to speak to your supervisor please. (+ infinitive)
- I do not wish my name to appear on the list. (+ object + infinitive)
Wish in fixed expressions
I/we wish you… is used in fixed expressions.
- I wish you a happy birthday.
- We wish you good luck in your new job.
See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below.
- I wish I’d studied harder: /wI ʃaɪd/
- I wish he hadn’t done that: /wI ʃiː/
(catenation – the last consonant sound of wish is joined to the vowel sound in I)
(catenation and elison – as above, and the first consonant sound in he is elided)