Wishes: 'wish' and 'if only'

Wishes: 'wish' and 'if only'

Do you know how to use wish and if only to talk about things you would like to change? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how wish and if only are used.

That guy is so annoying! I wish he'd stop talking.
I wish I lived closer to my family.
If only I hadn't lost her phone number. She must think I'm so rude for not calling her.
I wish they wouldn't park their car in front of my house.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

'wish' and 'if only': Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use wish and if only to talk about things that we would like to be different in either the present or the past. If only is usually a bit stronger than wish

In the present

We can use wish/if only + a past form to talk about a present situation we would like to be different. 

I wish you didn't live so far away.
If only we knew what to do.
He wishes he could afford a holiday.

In the past

We can use wish/if only + a past perfect form to talk about something we would like to change about the past. 

They wish they hadn't eaten so much chocolate. They're feeling very sick now.
If only I'd studied harder when I was at school. 

Expressing annoyance

We can use wish + would(n't) to show that we are annoyed with what someone or something does or doesn't do. We often feel that they are unlikely or unwilling to change.

I wish you wouldn't borrow my clothes without asking.
I wish it would rain. The garden really needs some water.
She wishes he'd work less. They never spend any time together.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

'wish' and 'if only': Grammar test 2

Language level

Average: 4.2 (85 votes)

Hello Farhad,

Yes, this is correct. When 'be' follows the word 'if' or the verb 'wish', it is grammatically correct to say things like 'if I were', 'I wish he were', 'she wishes she were' and 'if it were'. When we use the past simple in this way, we aren't speaking about the past, but rather about a hypothetical situation or hope.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vanessa Suzuki on Mon, 09/11/2020 - 13:32

Thank you very much for this exercise. Helped me a lot.
Profile picture for user aymanme2

Submitted by aymanme2 on Wed, 28/10/2020 - 23:39

Which is the right answer? I wish sports cars [weren't _ wouldn't be] expensive.

Hello aymanme2,

'weren't' is the correct answer here -- it expresses an unreal situation. It's 'unreal' because it's not real, that is, sports cars are in fact expensive.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again, Mr and thank you so much. I do have another question I came across: I wish mum.........(hadn't whistled // didn't whistle) while she was doing the washing up. I think the answer is 'hadn't whistled' as it expresses a wish of a past action. Mom whistled while she was doing the washing up. However, I think if the sentence was "I wish mom WOULDN'T WHISTLE / DIDN'T WHISTLE ___while SHE IS doing the washing up", it would be fine to express a present wish for a present habit r action. Am I right?

Hello aymanme2,

Yes, that's correct. Well done! It looks as if you understand this very well.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 18:24

That's very good to be with you

Submitted by Heartnette on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 05:41

Hi admin, Is it possible that the first question in Test 1 can be answered with "wouldn't have to"? I wish I _____ go to work tomorrow. wouldn't have to didn't have to hadn't had to It's a bit confusing why the correct one is "didn't have to" instead of "wouldn't have to", or can we use both? Thank you for your time. Much appreciate.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 09:38

In reply to by Heartnette


Hi Heartnette,

No, we would not use 'wouldn't have to' in this context.

The reason is that didn't have to describes a fact which we cannot control. Wouldn't describes a choice here, so it does not go with have to, which describes an obligation.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Rafaela1

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 13:07

I wish highway fare would be free. The government once promised that they would leave toll fare for free in the future.