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 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.






Sir please tell me which sentence is correct and why:
1) If we hadn't been waiting for you we would already be eating dinner by now.
2) If we hadn't been waiting for you we would have been eating dinner by now.
Thank you in advance.

Hello SahilK,

Which one do you think is correct and why (or why not)?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I was reading a book where I found the 1st sentence, which means the first sentence is correct. But as I have studied conditional sentences so in my opinion 2nd one should be the correct one. I am kind of confused here.
Thank you in advance

Hello SahilK,

I would say that both forms are possible here. The present form (would be eating) emphasises that the action is in progress; the perfect form (would have been eating) emphasises that the action started in the past and is continuing. Both forms accurately represent the intended meaning and so the choice is the speaker's in this context.

I think the perfect form is probably the more likely in this particular sentence because of the phrase 'by now'. If the time reference were simply 'now' then the present form would be more likely, I think. However, both are possible, as I said above.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir what if we omit "by" in both the sentences? Will the sentences be right even now?
And what if we write the sentence like "If we hadn't been waiting for you we would have had dinner by now". Is this right?
Thank you in advance

Hello SahilK,

Yes, both sentences are still correct if you say 'now' instead of 'by now'. The meaning is slightly different, however -- 'by now' means before now or now, whereas 'now' just means 'now'.

Yes, your new sentence is also correct.

It looks as if you understand this grammar well -- well done!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I'd like to know if my English lesson (made by my teacher) is correct or not. We work on the expression of wishes and regrets. This is my lesson :
"For expressing a wish for oneself : I wish + to + Verb
For expressing a wish for someone else : I wish + direct object complement + to + Verb
For expressing a wish for someone else : I wish + Subject + CAN + Verb
Examples : I wish to get my driver's license soon ! I wish you to pass your French exam !"
There is also one sentence that seems strange to me : "I wish you can come shopping with me."
Can you please tell me if that lesson is correct or not ? Thank you.
Your faithfully,

Hello Sienna7,

I'd encourage you to speak with your teacher about the lesson; perhaps he or she was speaking of a specific context. Some of the constructions, like the first one, are correct but are very unusual -- no one would use this construction in informal, or even many formal, settings, for example. The last sentence you ask about is almost correct -- if you change 'can' to 'could' then it will be correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for your quick reply and your help.
That's what I thought.
Your faithfully,

Sir I was looking at this sentence, "I wish I lived in somewhere more interesting". So, can't we write it as "I wish I was living in some place or somewhere more interesting"?
Other doubt is in the sentence that I want to frame like sir, if you just imagine a situation where me and my friend both went for an interview but unfortunately he didn't get selected. So if I want to frame this situation in a sentence would that be like " I got selected in the interview but my friend didn't. I wish he also had been selected" and if this is correct then please tell me why have we used "had been" here ?
And sir can you suggest me some ways to improve my spoken English ?

Thank you in advance