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.





Hello ashgray,

It means the first thing you explain. 'wish' + a verb in a past tense can be used to refer to something unreal or hypothetical; in this case, it's something you would like to do but cannot.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the explanation, Kirk.
Just to clear away my doubts, if I say
"I wish it will stop" it refers to a realistic wish, whereas if I say
"I wish it would stop" it refers to an unrealistic wish
and both the above sentences refer to the present tense?

Hello ashgray,

You're welcome. 'I wish' isn't followed by 'will' – as is explained above, it is followed by past forms (even when talking about the present) such as the past simple or past perfect. 'wish' in this sense expresses something seen as improbable or unreal.

By the way, there's an archived BBC page on 'wish' that you might find helpful as well.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for correcting me and referring that page, Kirk.
I have just one more question. I was studying a page in quick grammar on Adjectives & Prepositions. With that I created these sentences. If you don't mind me aswking this here, could you please tell me whether they are correct:
- He was DELIGHTED WITH their service
- I wasn't AWARE OF it
- I'm not BORED WITH it

Hello ashgray,

Those sentences are all correct. Well done!


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Peter M!

Please sir, am so confused about these sentences because of the "45%" there.
1) 45% of the students are busy.
2) 45% of the students is busy.
Could you please tell me which one is correct in the sentences above?

Hello roc1,

The noun 'students' is plural and so a plural verb is needed. Sentence 1 is correct.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much for this helpful response sir. I am very happy.

Hello sir,

Please, I need your help here again. I am having problem decerning the difference among these three sentences:

1. I saw the boy running across the bridge
2. I saw the boy run across the bridge
3. I saw the boy ran across the bridge
Please, which one is correct and explain.