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Wishes and hypotheses

Level: intermediate


We use the verb wish or the phrase if only to talk about things which we want but which are not possible:

I wish I could see you next week.
If only we could stop for a drink.
I wish we had a bigger house.
They are always busy. If only they had more time.
John was very lazy at school. Now he wishes he had worked harder.

We use wish and if only with past tense forms:

  • 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. If only my parents would let me stay out later.

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.
I wish I was taller.
John wishes he wasn't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't so cold.

  • After I/he/she/it, we can use were instead of was:

I wish I was/were taller.
John wishes he wasn't/weren't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't/weren'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.

Wishes 1


Wishes 2


Hypotheses (things we imagine)


When we are talking about hypotheses, we use expressions like:

what if ... ? in case suppose (that) supposing (that) imagine (if/that)

We use these expressions:

We should phone them in case they are lost.
Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident.

Imagine you won the lottery. What would you do with the money?
What if he lost his job? What would happen then?

Suppose you hadn't passed your exams. What would you have done?
What if he had lost his job? What would his wife have said?

Modal verbs

We use modals would and could for a hypothesis about the present or future:

We can't all stay in a hotel. It would be very expensive.
Drive carefully or you could have an accident.

We use would in the main clause and the past tense in a subordinate clause for a hypothesis about the present or 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 didn't see Mary, or I might have spoken to her.
It's a pity Jack wasn't at the party. He would have enjoyed it.
Why didn't you ask me? I could have told you the answer.

We use would have in the main clause and the past perfect in a subordinate clause to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I would have helped anyone who had asked me.
I would have helped you if you had asked me.

Hypotheses 1


Hypotheses 2




The verb to find's past simple conjugation is found i.e. I found, she found, we found.

However, there is also the verb 'to found' which is different from 'to find'.

The past participle of 'to found' is founded 'founded'. So, if you want to create that conditional structure (third conditional) it would be "I would have founded..." rather than "I would have found" - which would be an error in this case.

There is no problem with "I would found..." provided it's used to construct a second conditional.

"I would have found" would work in a sentence (3rd conditional) such as: "If I had looked under the sofa, I would have found my keys and I wouldn't have wasted two hours looking for them!"

I hope this helps.

Hello Sir
Is it right to say ' I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any subject.' That was the founder's motto for Cornell University ,and it …
I found the above in IELTS Cambridge Book 12 page 24.
I think it should be 'I would find ...
I am I right ?
Please let me know.
Thank you.

Dear teachers,

is the construction wish + would + past infinitive possible?
For example: "I wish she would have called me when she was in trouble" (but she didn't).
I've found some usage of this construction, for example in this song by Arctic Monkeys but no grammar reference, is it grammatically correct? If so, what is the difference between "I wish she would have called me" and "I wish she had called me"?

Thank you in advance,

Hello Jessica
This construction is not considered correct in any normative grammar that I know of, but this doesn't mean that people don't use it. The 'correct' form is 'I wish she had called me when she was in trouble', in which a past perfect form is used to speak about an unreal past event. You can see more about this on this page:
This is one of a number of non-standard forms (another, for example, is 'ain't' instead of 'am/are/is') that are actually quite common in informal speaking. I discourage my students from using such forms, as native speakers are likely to consider them wrong when used by non-native speakers. It's not really fair, but that's the way most people would react!
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

I wish I lived here.
I wish I could live here.
I wish you lived here.
I wish you could live here.
I wish you would live here.
The first one in both pair of sentences says that that you have the capability of living here but you don't want to and the other one says that you don't have the capability and the third one in the second pair says that I want you to live here because you not living here annoys me, isn't it ?

Hello SonuKumar,
I'm afraid I can't follow your question. You have five examples here, so I'm not sure what you mean by 'each pair', and I don't understand what 'the third one in the second pair' means. A pair is two, so I don't know what 'the third one' can be.
More generally, please remember that it's a lot easier for us to respond to particular questions about particular examples than to descriptions of lists of sentences, which require multiple long and detailed answers which go beyond the purposes of the comments sections.
The LearnEnglish Team

I am talking with my friend. He tells me that his brother is going to marry next month. Can I say: I wish he would have a happy life. Or I wish he could have a happy life. Or both are correct
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,
We would usually use the verb 'hope' for this:
'I hope he has a happy life.'
If you want to use the verb 'wish' then the form is a little different:
'I wish him a happy life.'

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teachers, i have a question for you over next sentences:
1) If i was gonna bother you i'd kick you out of the club;
2) If i wanted to bother you i'd kick you out of the club;
I was wondering if those ones could have the same meaning, and if no which is the difference?Anyway the first is a imaginary sentence is'nt it?

Thanks in advance!