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)
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Submitted by olisristeski on Thu, 28/12/2023 - 20:19


If only I _____ that to her. She's not speaking to me now.
Can we use "Didn't say" instead hadn't said. I mean to use past simple because we are speaking for now, to change something now

Hello olisristeski,

No, a past perfect is needed here. The saying happened in the past, and as the information on the page says, we use "wish/if only + a past perfect form to talk about something we would like to change about the past."



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by olisristeski on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 18:51


I'm so tired. I wish I had gone home earlier last night. This is correct answer and according to the rule we suppose to talk about the past
Why we can't use I Wish I went home earlier last night. We are talking about the present, are we? I understand as we are speaking in the present.

Hello olisristeski,

In your sentence the wishing is in the present but the going is in the past (specifically, last night), so it is a wish about the past. Therefore, the past perfect is appropriate.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter for your explanation, for me sometimes is a bit difficult to make clear distinction when we are wishing in past or present

Submitted by lumangela on Fri, 01/12/2023 - 11:51


I don't know whether this question has already been asked.

If I say "I hope to pass the exam", I use hope+infinitive.
I'd like to know if "I hope I passed the exam" is correct, meaning to use hope+past simple in the sense I hope now but still I don't know the result.

I have read on Cambrdige grammar the sentence "I hope she passed the exam" but in the sentence we have two different people.

So, may I use "I hope I passed the exam" instead of infinitive, by relating to the same person?
Best regards

Hi lumangela,

Thanks for your question! Yes, "I hope I passed the exam" is correct. It means that I have already taken the exam, but I am still waiting for the result.

On the other hand, if you say "I hope to pass the exam", I may or may not have taken it yet.

I hope that helps!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Yasmi97 on Thu, 09/11/2023 - 21:29


Hello! Could you tell me if I can say:
I wish I didn’t have to work tomorrow

Submitted by AlexKat_ on Fri, 27/10/2023 - 16:48


I have one more question regarding the if only + past simple/could and wish/if only + would (not) +V1 constructions

In this example, can we use If only + would?
If only the boarders were open now or If only the boarders would be open now?

could you please clarify if both sentences are correct with the construction IT`S (ABOUT) TIME

It`s (about) time you started living on your own or It`s (about) time you to start living on your own.

Thank you!