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 (84 votes)

Thanks for yr reply sir...
In other grammar exercises that I am studying,
1- I wish you (didn't speak)to yr mom like that.
2- I wish Jorge (didn't drive)so fast.It's only a matter of time before he kills someone.
Is it correct if I use (wouldn't) sir
Thank you...

Hello Kris Khant,

Yes, you can use wouldn't here.

The past form (didn't) describes the fact of the situation: I want the world to be different.

The modal wouldn't focuses more on the person's choice: I want the other person to change their behaviour.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AMNOMANM on Wed, 22/02/2023 - 04:35


I don't understand the sentence from Grammer Test 1:
I wish I _____ go to work tomorrow.
a. wouldn't have to
b. didn't have to
c. hadn't had to
The answer is B.
My question is, why isn't option A? because the person is wishing for future.


We only use 'would' or 'wouldn't' after 'wish' when we are annoyed about a person or situation that seems unwilling to change. Often this is another person ('I wish you wouldn't borrow my clothes without asking') or something we regard as having a personality -- in English, a machine or the weather are common examples of this: 'I wish it would rain' or 'I wish the car would start!'

In the sentence you ask about, it's simply a statement about a situation we can't change. It's possible to use a past form to talk about a near future like tomorrow as well. This is why 'didn't have to' is the correct answer here. We don't use 'would' to speak about the future after 'wish' unless it's one of the situations I mentioned above.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Profile picture for user dipakrgandhi

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Thu, 15/12/2022 - 11:15


I have come across this :
Bangladesh have been blown away by Kuldeep Yadav in a spell that Shane Warne would be proud of.

My question :
Should it be '...by a spell that Shane Warne would have been proud of' - as Shane Warne is not alive now.

Hi dipakrgandhi,

Yes, I agree with you. "Would have been proud of" would be better here.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Davydenko on Wed, 16/11/2022 - 14:00


Hi, Could you please help? I have a sentence: I wish you would take a photo of me so I could send it to my friends. Why we can't say here I wish you took a photo of me instead? Thanks a lot.

Hello Davydenko,

We use 'wish' + a past form to talk about a present situation, but taking a photo of someone is more of an action than a situation. When we use this structure, we don't think the change that we wish for is possible, at least for now.

'wish' + 'would' + verb is similar in that we use it to talk about a change we would like, and often this change is one we don't think is possible. But when we say it directly to another person, it's as if we're asking them to do what we want.

In your situation, it seems you're asking the person to take the photo, which more closely matches the use of 'wish' + 'would'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team