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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 Kamil,

When we say something should go sooner rather than later we mean that it it better to do it quickly than to wait.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you...what this means ...Would have had to go ...

Hello again Kamil,

If a person says something 'has to go' then they mean it is no longer needed or wanted and must be removed in some way.



The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, One more help...
Where we use being.

The machine often broke down and repair was costly....other way to write this sentence... reply ..thanks

Hello Kamil,

There are many ways to form this sentence. You'll need to give us some more guidance if you want us to help you find a particular way to say it.



The LearnEnglish Team

Ok sir,
How to know whether a particular sentence is correct or incorrect....i mean any trick how native speakers form long sentences...thank you sir

Hello Kamil

Part of being a native speaker of a language is having the sense for whether a sentence is grammatical or not. There are different theories about how it is that native speakers have this ability, but in any case, it takes years of listening and reading other people use the language. I'd suggest you read and listen to English as much as you can, and, if possible, get the help of a teacher, who can speed up the process for you.

I'm afraid we don't provide that kind of support here. Our comments section is a space where users can ask questions about what's on our pages. We occasionally also answer very specific questions about language related to what's on our pages, but this is not a space for private tuition.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

I wish to look as cute as i was in my childhood ....
Is that grammatically correct...
Suggest other way to write this sentence..please