Wishes

Expressing wishes and regrets

magic lamp

 

 

 

Present Wishes – Real vs. Unreal

A WISH THAT CAN COME TRUE

We use wish followed by an infinitive clause to express a wish that can occur in the future. (A that-clause may follow hope or wish.)

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

We

wish 

to go with you. (direct request / demand)

We

would like

to go with you.  (more formal request)

I

hope 

(that) we can go with you. (suggestion / request)

I

wish 

*(that) I can go with you.

 

AN IMAGINARY WISH

We use wish + preterit to express a wish about a hypothetical (imaginary) situation.   Optionally, use that before the clause that complements the verb.

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

I

wish 

(that) I were¹ home in my country.  (a private thought; a longing)

I

wish 

(that) I could go with you. (an excuse due to inability, or an expression of regret)

I

wish 

(that) you would let me pay for dinner. (pretend regret, or upset)

I

wish 

(that)  you would turn that TV off!  (low expectation request; anger, outrage)

preterit – the past tense verb form
was (informal) / were (formal)  If I was / were…  preterit verb form. Irrealis (Huddleston 3 §1.7)
*a that-clause is not used for a present (real) wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unreal Wishes (Hypothetical)

Present and Past

 

 

 

Past Wishes – Unreal

A PRESENT WISH ABOUT THE PAST

Wish followed by a clause with could have or would have expresses regret about a past action that did not happen.

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

I

wish 

(that) I could have gone with you.  (regret over a lost opportunity)

I

wish

(that) you would have remembered to take the dog out. (nagging, anger)

A PAST WISH ABOUT THE PAST

Wished follwed by a clause with could have, would have, or a past participle expresses regret about a past action that did not happen.  

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

I

wished

(that) I could have gone with you.  (remembering a lost opportunity)

I

wished

(that) I had been old enough to drive.  (remembering a wish)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations in Meaning

Regret & Upset

fairygodmother

 

 

 

Wish — Regret vs. Upset

HAD + PARTICIPLE

Wish may express regret over a past action that failed to occur. Wish is complemented by a clause that includes the past perfect verb form. (that is optional before the clause.)

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

She

wishes 

(that) the store had had the shoes in her size.  (She regrets they did not have her size.)

I

wish

(that) you had let me know that you were coming.  (I regret you did not let me know.)

They

wish

(that) you had called before coming.  (They regret you did not call.)

I

wish

(that) my boss had bought us laptops instead of desktop computers.
(I regret he did not buy laptops.)

WOULD HAVE + PARTICIPLE

Wish followed by a clause with would have expresses dissatisfaction or the unwillingness of someone to do something.

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

She

wishes 

(that) the store would have had the shoes in her size.  (She is unhappy that they didn't carry her shoe size.)

I

wish

(that) you would have let me know.
(I am  displeased you were unwilling to communicate with me.)

They

wish

(that) you would have driven instead of them. (They are upset you were unwilling to drive.)

I

wish

(that) my boss would have bought us laptops instead of desktops. (I am angry he was unwilling to do so.)

 

Also see Won't – be unwilling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations in Meaning

Lost Opportunity

 

 

 

WISH – Lost Opportunity vs. Upset

COULD HAVE

"Could have" expresses regret over inability to do something – physical or mental. The situation is a lost opportunity.

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

She

wishes

the store could have had the shoes in her size.  (The store was unable to do so because they had none in stock.)

I

wish

you could have let me know.  (You were unable to do so because you could not get to a phone.)

They

wish

you could have driven instead of them.  (They were unable to drive due to not having a license or being incapable.)

I

wish

my boss could have bought us laptops not iPads. (He was not able to buy laptops due to budget limitations.)

WOULD HAVE

Would have expresses dissatisfaction and emphasizes someone's unwillingness to do something.

SUBJECT VERB COMPLEMENT

She

wishes

the store would have had the shoes in her size.  (She was unhappy the store was unwilling to restock her size.)

I

wish

you would have let me know.(I am displeased you were unwilling to communicate.)

They

wish

you would have driven instead of them. (They are upset you were unwilling to drive.)

I

wish

my boss would have bought us laptops not iPads. (I am disappointed he was unwilling to do so.)

 

En-US – license, En–Br: licence
in stock (v.) – in their storeroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Only

A Doubtful Wish

beach
 

 

Wish vs. If only

WISH

I wish… expresses an imagined situation.  We use wish to say that we want things to be different.

SUBJ + VERB COMPLEMENT

I wish 

I had more time so that I could relax! (longing)

I wish

 I could go home for vacation, then I would be so happy.  

I wish 

you were here! (longing)

I wish 

you would travel with me.  (Please do.)

I wish  

she hadn't told told her mother everything.  (but she did.)

IF ONLY

If only  expresses a wish – one that you are doubtful about actually happening. ¹ If only is more emphatic than I wish…

IF ONLY CLAUSE

If only 

I had more time! (regret)
I would complete it if only I had more time.

If only 

I could go home for vacation. (regret)
I would be so happy if only I could go home…

If only 

you were here! (regret)
I would be so happy if only you were here..

If only 

you would come with me. (I know you won't.) 
I would be so happy if only you would..

If only  

she hadn't told her mother everything.  (regret)
I would be so happy if only she hadn't told..

 

¹The expression is shortened from a conditional clause with the result clause understood from the context. 

longing (n.) –s trong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant
If Only (Huddleston 751)  
Also see Only if (a condition)    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice

Make a Wish

sun set
 

 

Select the verb form that completes the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the answer by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 1-13" button.

 

1.
It's raining. You don't like rain.

2.
It's raining. Your friend is leaving without his coat.

3.
It was raining. Your friend caught a cold because he didn't wear his coat. Remind him about the advice you gave.

4.
You wish to buy a new coat, but you have no money right now.

5.
You weren't at the noon meeting. You had another appointment.

6.
You are angry about a person failing to show up to a meeting.

7.
You want to help prepare some documents for a meeting.  Make a request / wish.

8.
You are at a party. You want to go home. Tell your friend .  Make a direct request/wish.

9.
Your friend wants help with homework. You want to watch a TV movie.  Make an excuse. 

10.
At the holiday office party, your boss drank a little to much, sat on the copy machine and photocopied his behind. You missed it!

11.
A few days after the holiday office party, you remember the embarrassing event and what you were thinking at that time.  

12.
You have an office mate that smokes. You make a somewhat angry wish.

13.
A friend tells you that he was near your office earlier that day, but didn't want to bother you. You tell him your regrets.