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.






Which verbs can be used the below gap: is/can?
If winter comes, ......... spring be far behind?

Hello muradpanna,

I'm afraid we don't answer questions like this which are from exercises elsewhere. If we tried to do so then we would end up doing everyone's homework for them! I can tell you that this is a very famous line from a poem by Shelley, so it should be quite easy for you to find the answer!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

When she was a young girl, she used to wish she ............. a princess.
1- were
2- was
3- had been
Please which answer is correct and why?

Hello adamlynberg,

The correct answer is probably 'was'. The girl said at the time 'I wish I was a princess' but there is no need to change the tense with 'used to'.

It is possible to say 'had been', but this would suggest that the young girl's wish was about her own past, not the moment of wishes - i.e. about when she was an even younger girl.

Please note that we do not usually answer questions of this sort, which come from exercises elsewhere (homework or tests, for example). Our aim here is to help users with our own material, not to do tasks from elsewhere for them!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Peter.
In fact this question confused me a lot coz more than an answer is possible. This question was on Toefl that's why I'm asking.
Very grateful to you

hi there
which one is true which means burn?
catch on fire or catch fire

Hello chris kim,

Generally we do not say 'catch on fire'. The options are rather 'catch fire' or 'be on fire'. However, I would need to see the context to be sure which of these is most appropriate.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
When I say, "I wish I could do that for you"

What does it mean:
I cannot do it for you but I wish I could.
When time comes in the future, I hope I would be able to do that for you.

Hello ashgray,

It means the first thing you explain. 'wish' + a verb in a past tense can be used to refer to something unreal or hypothetical; in this case, it's something you would like to do but cannot.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the explanation, Kirk.
Just to clear away my doubts, if I say
"I wish it will stop" it refers to a realistic wish, whereas if I say
"I wish it would stop" it refers to an unrealistic wish
and both the above sentences refer to the present tense?