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




Can we use wish to express the feeling of guilt?
I wish I hadn't spoken to her like that. I seem to have hurt her.

Hello Goldenhorse77,

Your sentence is correct and very well-formed -- good work! We often use the word 'regret' (which is similar to 'guilt') to talk about the feeling expressed in this kind of statement.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Instead this sentence:
I always have to get home early
Can i use this sentence below:
I always have to come home early.
Thank's in advance.

Hello Ricardo A,

'Come' has a sense of 'here' with it, and so we use 'come' when we are speaking from the place being discussed. For example:

I came home at 6.00. [I would say this if I were at home when speaking]

I went home at 6.00. [I would say this if I were not at home when speaking]


You could say 'get home' in any context, but you would only say 'come home' if you were actually saying it while at home.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

How can I make "I wish..." sentence from this sentence:
I have never been in Italy.
How should I convert it?
a)I wish I have ever been in Italy.
b)I wish I have been in Italy.
Are they both correct or there is some other formulation.

Hello B.T.

I'm afraid we generally do not provide help with tasks from outside of our own pages as otherwise we would end up doing our users' homework and/or tests for them.

The relevant rule on this page is as follows:

We use past tense forms to talk about wishes for the present

If you follow that rule you should be able to complete the task. Incidentally, 'been' here is the past participle of 'go' rather than 'be' and so we would say 'to Italy' rather than 'in Italy' in most contexts.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Is it a must to use past tense after 'wish'?
Are the following correct?
1 I wish you live happily.
2 I wish you have a healthy life.
3 I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Hello libero,

Different forms are possible after 'wish', but a verb in the present tense is not one of them. 'wish' + some kind of verb form is generally used to speak about something that we don't see as likely or possible.

If we want to wish someone something we see as possible, then we can use 'wish' + noun + noun, e.g. 'I wish you a happy life', 'I wish you health', 'I wish you a Merry Christmas'. We can also use 'hope' + (that) + verb clause. For example, 'I hope (that) you have a happy life' or 'I hope you have a healthy life'.

I hope this helps you!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could someone tell me which sentence is correct?

1) I wish there was a house that cleans itself
2) I wish there was a house that cleaned itself.

Pls explain your answer as that would help me understand better. Thank you so much.

Hello frankenstein777,

The past simple verb ('was') in the construction 'I wish there was' indicates that we are talking about an unreal situation or thing. In this case, that unreal thing is a house that cleans itself. But since this phrase goes inside the construction 'I wish there was ...', you should also use the past simple there. Therefore the correct option is 2.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team