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

Section: 

Comments

sir,
Please explain the difference between following two sentences-
I used to think how things would have been with you.
I used to think how things would be with you.

Hello neh7272,

Note that neither of these sentences is expressing a wish or hypothesis but rather past actions. What do you think the differences could be? In general, it's much better for your learning if you explain what you think to us; in addition, providing personalised explanations that have little to do with the page is a service we don't offer. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

sir,
I just can't figure out the difference between the two sentences.
I am just confused between would have been and would be.
And if the above sentence is neither expressing wish or hypothesis , what I must do to make it a hypothesis.
Does the sentences means - one is worried about how things would be with that person

Hello neh7272,

The first part of these sentences tells us that the speaker no longer thinks about this:

I used to think about (an activity which he or she no longer does)

The second part tells us that the person was thinking about a hypothetical situation

how things would have been (a hypothetical situation in the past - before the thinking)

how things would be (a hypothetical situation in the future - i.e. after the thinking)

 

In other words, the sentence with 'would have been' refers to speculation about a time before the thinking; the sentence with 'would be' refers to speculation about a time after the thinking. In both sentences the thinking is in the past and is something the speaker no longer does.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,

I would appreciate it if someone could help me with this question;

Q1. How might you check that a student has understood the following sentence?

I wish I had more free time.

Q2. Indicate which function is being expressed in the following phrase?
There must be campus buses still around at this hour.

These are my answers to the above questions:
My answer to Q1.

Match the following sentence to one or more of the following sentences

I wish I had more free time;

a) I do not have any free time.
b) I have enough free time.
c) I have little free time.
d) I have some free time.

My answer to Q2.

'making a deduction'

Thank you

SFS :)

Hi StartingFromScratch,

LearnEnglish is a website for students learning the language, not teachers in training, so I'm afraid we can't help you with this! There is a companion site, TeachingEnglish, which is aimed at teachers, but we don't provide an answer service for homework or coursework tasks - these are yours to do, I'm afraid.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The structure: If+sub+v2+ob, sub+would have+v3+ob.
1)If I went to australia I would have seen kangaroo which Tom missed in his trip last month.
2)If I went to australia I would see kangaroo which Tom missed in his trip last month.
Are both correct?what is difference in meaning?

Hello innocentashish420,

Sentence 1 is not correct; some mixing of verb forms can work in conditionals, but in this case, 'if I went' speaks about a time in the future, whereas 'would have seen' speaks about an unreal past – the two can't be logically connected.

I'd suggest you read our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages – I think the explanations there will help you understand this.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear all,
I have two questions I hope you could help me to figure out.

1) How do you talk about hypotheses made in the past? Do you still use the structure of second conditional and third conditional that you use to talk about hypotheses made in current time?

For example, are the following sentences correct?
"He does not know what he would say if they decided to contact him"
"He did not know what he would say if they decided to contact him."

"He thinks that his life would have been far better, if that accident had not happened to him".
"He thought that his life would have been far better, if that accident had not happened to him".

2) I found this sentence in an article of The New Yourk Times, so I guess it is correct; however it does not seem perfectly sound to me.

This is the original sentence:
"Maybe even a blanket GMO label would be OK, he thought, if it would help consumers understand that he had nothing to hide."

This is how I would have written it:
"Maybe even a blanket GMO label would be OK, he thought, if it helped consumers understand that he had nothing to hide."

Thanks in advance for your availability.

lz177

Hello lz177,

Yes, that's right, you can use the second and third conditional structures to speak about hypotheses in the past, just as in your example sentences, which are correct.

As for your second question, your alternative is certainly correct, but so is the original sentence. It's good that you spotted 'would' after 'if', as sometimes this is not correct, but in this sentence and others, for examples when 'would' is used to express a person or object's volition, it is correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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