wishes and hypotheses

 

Wishes

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.

 

 

Exercise

Comments

Hi sir,
Could you plz explain how we will write about present hypothesis.....I have read about past hypothesis and future hypothesis,but not about present hypothesis....

Hi Learner S,

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by 'present hypothesis'.  There are many ways of talking about unreal present, of speculating about the present and so on.  Could you provide an example of the kind of meaning you have in mind, and then we'll try to help you to express it?

Thank you,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
In the example
"Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident." I have a doubt (usage of "has" with "someone"), Can you please explain what is the difference between these two sentences. 
1. What if someone have no car insurance.  (Does it mean "What if someone does not have a car insurance").
2. Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone have an accident.
Thanks

Hello Ridham!
 
We always use has with someone; someone is singular. Sentences 1. and 2. are both wrong, and should use has - although "What if someone does not have a car insurance" is correct.
 
Regards
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
In the exercise the sentence:
I sometimes wish I'd had a sister.
 Does it mean that:
I sometimes wish  ( in the present)  I had had a sister ( in the past  but not now)?
Otherwise it would be:  I sometimes wish I had a sister (now) ?
Do I understand it right?
Thank you in advance
Best wishes,
Lenka

Hello Lenka,
Thanks for your question. I can understand the confusion this phrase causes.
In this example, it means that he wishes (now), that he has a sister (in the past and now). We often use past perfect in this scenario when referring to 'unreal past' situations, and it is quite easy to get confused about the time referred to.
The context usually helps make it clearer.
 
Best wishes,
Stephen Jones
The LearnEnglish Team 

Dear Teacher,
 
since "would" and "had" have the same contraction ('d), it's really hard for me to distinguish them on sentences, could you help me to understand more about this.
I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much
Luri

Dear Luri,
It can be confusing that they both have the same contraction, but remember that 'would' is a modal verb and 'had' is not.
Modal verbs are always followed by an infinitive without 'to' and 'had' (when contracted) is usually followed by a past participle, so often it's clear which one is in use. e.g. 'She'd like to see you.' vs. 'He'd known it for a long time.'
Very occasionally the infinitive and past participle of a verb are the same and then you have to work it out from context. e.g. 'He'd cut down on his smoking before his son was born.' vs. 'She'd cut her hair short if she was allowed to.'
I hope that helps.
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Adam,
 
Thank you so much for your help and your clear explanation.... now I'm more understand, just need to get used to to make it more bright in my head...sure by practice...practice...and practice
 
Thank you so much

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