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 were on a beach. (I’m in the office)
- I wish it were 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 were lying on a beach now. (I’m sitting in the office)
- I wish it weren’t raining. (It is raining)
- I wish you weren’t leaving tomorrow. (You are leaving tomorrow)
In Standard English we use “I wish I were…” and “I wish it were…”. However, “I wish I was…” and “I wish it was” are in common usage. Using this form, the examples above would be:
- I wish I was on a beach.
- I wish it was the weekend.
- I wish I was lying on a beach now.
- I wish it wasn’t raining.
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 situation or action.
- I wish you would stop smoking.
You are smoking at the moment and it is annoying me.
- I wish it would stop raining.
I’m impatient because it is raining and I want to go outside.
- I wish she’d be quiet.
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 wish it was sunny tomorrow” is not correct.
- I hope she passes her exam next week.
“I wish she were passing her exam next week” is not correct.
- I hope the plane doesn’t crash tomorrow.
“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/
(catenation – the last consonant sound of wish is joined to the vowel sound in I)
- I wish he hadn’t done that: /wI ʃiː/
(catenation and elison – as above, and the first consonant sound in he is elided)