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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




form for first case in operating room that does not start on time?is this a correct grammar ?can anyone help me formulate it correctly?

Hello sandy09,

I'm afraid I dont' understand what you are trying to say here with 'form for first case'. The sentence is not grammatically correct but I can't guess at what it should be as I don't know your intention.

I notice that you have posted the same question multiple time. When you have a question please post it once only. Multiple posts simply mean that we must delete the extra copies, which makes the process of answering slower.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Abbasi,

'wish' is indeed a word that can be difficult to learn to use. Like many words, it has different meanings and uses, and this is part of what makes it difficult. If you look 'wish' up in the dictionary, this should help give you an idea of the different ways it is used. As you will see there, in a sentence like 'I wish to make a complaint', 'wish' basically means 'want'.

When a past tense is used after 'wish', however, the past tense doesn't refer to the past. It refers to an imaginary or unreal time. I don't know Farsi, but I do know that in other Indo-European languages, the past is used this way, so it's actually not unique to English to use the past tense in this way.

If you have any specific questions about sentences with 'wish', please feel free to ask us for more help.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Sir, could you tell me please, regarding wishes, why "I wish we were travelling first calss" and not i wish we travelled first class. the sentence is in present tense, so why not to use the past tense of the verb?

Hello matan,

We would say 'I wish we were travelling first class' during the journey - while we are still on the bus, tram or still in the car. The reference is not to the past but to a hypothetical present.

You can say 'I wish we travelled first class' but it would not describe a particular journey but rather a general statement about your dissatisfaction with your travelling habits.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Could you tell me if I can use wish with present simple and future simple like this,
"I wish I go with you to the market in the evening today and, I wish you will get a better job and likewise" ?

Hello SonuKumar,

No, those sentences are not correct. The first sentence should begin either 'I wish to go...' (the meaning here is something like I hope to, with a future meaning) or 'I wish I could go...' (the meaning here is that you would like to go but cannot).

The second sentence would be best expressed by I hope you get...


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone !
Below I report an example :
"John wishes he wasn’t so busy."
I often read "I, he, she, it were/were not " . that's wrong or can I use "were" for each pronoun?

Hello giura,

Yes, you can use 'were' for all persons after 'wish'. It is the subjunctive form and used to be the only possible form, but the language changes all the time and the subjunctive is becoming less popular. It is still correct, however, and is especially preferred in formal language.

I wish I weren't...

I wish you weren't...

I wish he/she/it weren't...

I wish we weren't...

I wish they weren't...


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Can we use wish to express the feeling of guilt?
I wish I hadn't spoken to her like that. I seem to have hurt her.