wishes and hypotheses



We use past tense forms to talk about wishes:

  • We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future:

I don’t like my work. I wish I could get a better job.
That’s a dreadful noise. I wish it would stop.
I always have to get home early. I wish my parents would let me stay out later.

  •  We use past tense forms to talk about wishes for the present:

I don’t like this place. I wish I lived in somewhere more interesting.
These seats are very uncomfortable. I wish we were travelling first class.
Everyone wishes they had more free time.
John wishes he wasn’t so busy.
I wish it wasn’t so cold.

  • We use the past perfect to talk about wishes for the past:

I wish I had worked harder when I was at school.
Mary wishes she had listened to what her mother told her.
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Hypotheses (things that we imagine)

When we are talking about hypotheses:

  • We use present tense forms after phrases like what if, in case and suppose to talk about the future if we think it is likely to happen:

Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident.
We should leave home early in case we are late.

  • We use a past tense form to talk about the future after suppose and what if to suggest something is not likely to happen:

It might be dangerous. Suppose they got lost.
What if he lost his job. What would happen then?

  • We use modals would, could for a hypothesis about the future:

We can’t all stay in a hotel. It would be very expensive.
Drive carefully. You could have an accident.

  • We use would in the main clause and the past in a subordinate clause to talk about the imagined future:

I would always help someone who really needed help.
I would always help someone if they really needed it.

  • We use modals with have to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I did not see Mary, or I might have spoken to her.
It’s a pity Jack wasn’t at the party. He would have enjoyed this party.
Why didn’t you ask me. I could have told you the answer.





The task is great. Yet I guess it's easier for students to understand if one consider this:

- WISH + SUBJECT + SIMPLE PAST = talking about complaints or regrets in the present;
- WISH + SUBJECT + WOULD + BASE FORM = talking about complaints when you want someone to do something for you;
- WISH + SUBJECT + PAST PERFECT = talking about complaints or regrets in the past.

Hello Team,

Could you please explain the difference between these sentences.

1. I supposed to be at station by three o'clock.

2. I should be at station by three o'clock.

Both sentences give same information about when 'subject = I' arrives at station(i.e., tells about future). Is there any nuance between them?


Hello Eng.Learner,

'be supposed to' is used to say speak about what we have to do according to some set of rules, or to indicate what we expect to happen. 'should' can also be used to talk about the same kind of obligation or expectation, but has a much wider range of uses. What they mean in your sentences really depends on the context in which they are used, but in general 1 is likely to be about rules (e.g. my train ticket says I must be there at that time) and 2 might reflect a more personal decision (e.g. I like to be early for departures, therefore I've decided I want to be there at that time).

By the way, sentence 1 is not grammatically correct - it should say 'I'm supposed to be...'

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

Thank you very much for your valuable help. I'm afraid to say It didn't clarify me. I wish I had explained the context.

Here the context:

Now, I am in the middle of train journey and Let me say my friend ask me when you will arrive your destination. In this scenario I want to tell him the expected time by using either 'should' or 'suppose'. So is it possible to tell him by using these words. And if it's the case then let me know the correct structure.

I'm looking forward to your reply.

Thanks in advance.

Hello Eng.Learner,

In that context, both sentences (I'm supposed to arrive / I should arrive) would be correct and would mean the same thing.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thank you so much for replying quickly. It helps me a lot.


1- we should buy ready food , in case my mother don't cook the lunch.
2-we should buy ready food , in case my mother didn't cook the lunch.
please cofirm my understanding
A) I suggest that to buy cooked food in both sentences
B) the Probability of that my mother will cook the lunch
In sentence 1, the percintage of the Probability is high
In sentence 2, the percintage of the Probability is very low or 0%
may you confirm my Understanding or write accordingly

Hello Aljefri,

The two sentences should be a little different:

1 - We should buy a ready-made meal, in case my mother doesn't cook lunch.

2 - we should buy a ready-made meal, in case my mother didn't cook lunch.

The difference here is not probability, but time. In the first sentence the cooking will or will not take place in the future - the time for cooking has not yet come. In the second sentence the cooking has or has not already taken place, though you do not yet know the outcome.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Peter M very much for adjusting sentences and clarification.

The result would have been different if they had used there chances properly.
The result would have different if they had used their chances properly.

There is only difference of been in the sentence. Would it change the meaning if i don't use it.

Plz also explain been, where it should be used exactly.