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.





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.
can you explain why we have used could have in the present tense as you have stated 'If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have:

If I had got the job we would be living in Paris now. = I did not get the job so we are not living in Paris now.
If you had done your homework you would know the answer. = You did not do your homework so you do not know the answer.


This sentence is confusing but it does keep to the rule as stated. When we say 'a modal with have' we mean a perfect modal. That is to say [modal + have + past participle]:

could have gone

could have eaten

could have seen

could have had


A present modal is followed by a bare infinitive [modal + infintive without 'to']:

could go

could eat

could see

could have

As you can see, 'could have' in your sentence is not a perfect modal as there is no past participle after it. It is a present modal with an infinitive following it, but because the infinitive is the verb 'have' it looks like it is a perfect modal form. An easy mistake to make!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

If we talk about parents behavior and we want to say that parents don't allow time to kids so that the kids can share their problems with them, which of the following do you think is right?
a) I agree that these days parents don't give their kids time (for discussion).
b) I agree that these days parents don't spend time with their kids (for discussion).

Hello Zeeshan,

Both sentences are fine, though I'd recommend saying something like 'to talk about their problems' instead of 'discussion', as 'discussion' could imply something for more formal than what you seem to be talking about.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M
If you could let me know what clause fits the situation: A wants to be with B after death; i.e. A wishes to be in heavens with B. This is for future and something that A is not certain about, whether he'll be able to be with B or not, he only can wishes so during the life so now what is the best:
a) I wish I could be with B in heavens.
b) I hope I will be with B in heavens.
c) I wish I were with B in heavens.
d) I wish to be with B in heavens.

Hello Zeeshan,

'Hope' usually refers to something in the future or present. It describes something which is still possible. 'Wish' usually has a past or present time reference and describes a hypothetical situation. it is often used to talk about things we regret.

Since in this case you're clearly speaking about the future, sentence b) (with 'hope') is the best choice.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear mentors,
On the esteemed website on 'wish' page I read this "When we talk about present regrets, both wish and if only are followed by the past simple tense.". Rather, in a book I read this "Past tenses are used with a present or future meaning." If you can guide me please whether past tense in 'wish' clause refers to present regret only or it may refer to future meaning as well?
Secondly what is the difference between the two:
a) I wish I had a car.
b) I wish I could have a car.

Hello Zeeshan,

I suppose one could say that it refers to the future in a way, but I'd say it's more the idea of a different situation now in the present. If you want to speak about the future, you can use 'I hope' -- see my colleague Peter's response to another use below.

As for the two sentences, a) is simply about having a car whereas b) is about someone or your situation allowing you to have a car.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team