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 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.





Excuse me Peter but I'm not sure I understood everything,can you show me any example?

Hi manuel24,

For example, if you and I traveled to London and someone there started speaking to you in English and you turned to me, expecting me to respond, I could say 'I thought you spoke English'. This would indicate that I was expecting you to reply since you know English.

For the second, if we met a Swedish person in the UK and I you spoke to her in French even though you speak English better than French, I could say 'I thought you would speak in English' since I was expecting you to speak the language that you know better.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk!

Could you help me?
- Ali would like to travel abroad when he grows up. (wish)
Can I say: Ali wishes he could travel abroad when he grows up.
Ali wishes he travelled abroad when he grew up.
Ali wishes he travelled abroad when he grows up.
Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I'm afraid we don't provided help with questions from elsewhere (books, tests, homework, other sites etc). We're happy to comment about the material on our own pages, of course, or on ponts of English which are problematic for our users, but we don't provide answers for tasks or exercises. We don't want to end up doing our users' homework for them, after all!

The information you need is on this page: We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future.



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!

Hi rosario70

The two sentences mean the same thing, but the first one is quite informal and the second one is neutral. Both are a second conditional structure.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, could you tell me what is the formal way to indicate the same meaning like those ones?


Hello rosario70

You could say, for example: 'If I wanted to disturb you, I'd have you expelled from the club.' Note that the tenses are the same, but some informal words ('bother', 'kick out') are replaced by more formal ones ('disturb', 'expel') and a causative structure ('have you expelled') is used to make the action less direct. Both of these are typical strategies for making a statement more formal in English.

All the best


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.