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.