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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




hello geeks,

Q. It is raining .
A. I wish it will stop .

Is it correct. I am really confused..."I hope it will stop " seems to be correct .need more clarification ,please .

Hello babuer,

To talk about the future after 'hope' we use a present form:

I hope it stops.


You could also use 'wish':

I wish it would stop raining.



The LearnEnglish Team

Sir please tell me which sentence is correct and why:
1) If we hadn't been waiting for you we would already be eating dinner by now.
2) If we hadn't been waiting for you we would have been eating dinner by now.
Thank you in advance.

Hello SahilK,

Which one do you think is correct and why (or why not)?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello SahilK,

Yes, both sentences are still correct if you say 'now' instead of 'by now'. The meaning is slightly different, however -- 'by now' means before now or now, whereas 'now' just means 'now'.

Yes, your new sentence is also correct.

It looks as if you understand this grammar well -- well done!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I'd like to know if my English lesson (made by my teacher) is correct or not. We work on the expression of wishes and regrets. This is my lesson :
"For expressing a wish for oneself : I wish + to + Verb
For expressing a wish for someone else : I wish + direct object complement + to + Verb
For expressing a wish for someone else : I wish + Subject + CAN + Verb
Examples : I wish to get my driver's license soon ! I wish you to pass your French exam !"
There is also one sentence that seems strange to me : "I wish you can come shopping with me."
Can you please tell me if that lesson is correct or not ? Thank you.
Your faithfully,

Hello Sienna7,

I'd encourage you to speak with your teacher about the lesson; perhaps he or she was speaking of a specific context. Some of the constructions, like the first one, are correct but are very unusual -- no one would use this construction in informal, or even many formal, settings, for example. The last sentence you ask about is almost correct -- if you change 'can' to 'could' then it will be correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir I was looking at this sentence, "I wish I lived in somewhere more interesting". So, can't we write it as "I wish I was living in some place or somewhere more interesting"?
Other doubt is in the sentence that I want to frame like sir, if you just imagine a situation where me and my friend both went for an interview but unfortunately he didn't get selected. So if I want to frame this situation in a sentence would that be like " I got selected in the interview but my friend didn't. I wish he also had been selected" and if this is correct then please tell me why have we used "had been" here ?
And sir can you suggest me some ways to improve my spoken English ?

Thank you in advance

Hello SahilK,

We do not use 'in' before 'somewhere', so the correct sentence would be:

I wish I lived somewhere more interesting

You can reformulate this as:

I wish I was living in some place more interesting

I wish I was living somewhere more interesting


Your second sentence is almost correct, but the word order needs to be slightly different:

I wish he had also been selected

The past perfect is used here because you are describing a past situation which is not real: he was not selected in the past and you are imagining/wishing for something different. We use the past simple for unreal present wishes ('I wish he was...') and the past perfect for unreal past wishes ('I wish he had been...').


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M,

I agree that "I wish I lived in somewhere more interesting" should not contain "in". However it is an example following he rule written above. Please either correct it or infrom the editors)