We use past tense forms to talk about wishes:

  • 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. I wish my parents would let me stay out later.

  •  We use past tense forms to talk about wishes for the present:

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.
Everyone wishes they had more free time.
John wishes he wasn’t so busy.
I wish it wasn’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.

Hypotheses (things that we imagine)

When we are talking about hypotheses:

  • We use present tense forms after phrases like what if, in case and suppose to talk about the future if we think it is likely to happen:

Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident.
We should leave home early in case we are late.

  • We use a past tense form to talk about the future after suppose and what if to suggest something is not likely to happen:

It might be dangerous. Suppose they got lost.
What if he lost his job. What would happen then?

  • We use modals would, could for a hypothesis about the future:

We can’t all stay in a hotel. It would be very expensive.
Drive carefully. You could have an accident.

  • We use would in the main clause and the past in a subordinate clause to talk about the imagined 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 did not see Mary, or I might have spoken to her.
It’s a pity Jack wasn’t at the party. He would have enjoyed this party.
Why didn’t you ask me. I could have told you the answer.





In above explanation:
We use past tense forms to talk about wishes for the present:
Question: what's the mean of past tense, just simple past tense and past continuous, or anything else?
We use present tense forms after phrases like what ifin case and suppose to talk about the future if we think it is likely to happen:
We use a past tense form to talk about the future after suppose and what if to suggest something is not likely to happen:
question 1: what's the mean of past tense and present tense forms, do they just mean simple past tense and simple present tense respectively?
question 2: what's the difference meanings  between present tense forms and past tense  if we use suppose and what if for the same sentence?
In activity:
This club is very small. Suppose there were a fire. Does it means the fire is not likely to happen.
Can I say:This club is very small. Suppose there is a fire. Then it means I think the fire is likely to happen.
Am I right?

Dear Teacher,
since "would" and "had" have the same contraction ('d), it's really hard for me to distinguish them on sentences, could you help me to understand more about this.
I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much

Dear Luri,
It can be confusing that they both have the same contraction, but remember that 'would' is a modal verb and 'had' is not.
Modal verbs are always followed by an infinitive without 'to' and 'had' (when contracted) is usually followed by a past participle, so often it's clear which one is in use. e.g. 'She'd like to see you.' vs. 'He'd known it for a long time.'
Very occasionally the infinitive and past participle of a verb are the same and then you have to work it out from context. e.g. 'He'd cut down on his smoking before his son was born.' vs. 'She'd cut her hair short if she was allowed to.'
I hope that helps.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Adam,
Thank you so much for your help and your clear explanation.... now I'm more understand, just need to get used to to make it more bright in my head...sure by practice...practice...and practice
Thank you so much

Dear Adamjk,

Please write the sentence He'd known it for a long time again but not in contracted form and also the second sentence.

Hello muntaziri,

The two sentences without contractions are:

'She would like to see you.'


'He had known it for a long time.'

The sentences Adam gives later are"

'He had cut down on his smoking before his son was born.'


'She would cut her hair short if she was allowed to.'


Your example 'She'd cut her hair short if she was allowed to.' :

Can we say ' She would cut her hair if she is allowed to ' for the same meaning ?

In the exercise the sentence:
I sometimes wish I'd had a sister.
 Does it mean that:
I sometimes wish  ( in the present)  I had had a sister ( in the past  but not now)?
Otherwise it would be:  I sometimes wish I had a sister (now) ?
Do I understand it right?
Thank you in advance
Best wishes,

In the example
"Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident." I have a doubt (usage of "has" with "someone"), Can you please explain what is the difference between these two sentences. 
1. What if someone have no car insurance.  (Does it mean "What if someone does not have a car insurance").
2. Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone have an accident.

Hello Ridham!
We always use has with someone; someone is singular. Sentences 1. and 2. are both wrong, and should use has - although "What if someone does not have a car insurance" is correct.
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team