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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 maxmamun001,

That's not quite it. This sentence tells us what the reaction of the speaker would have been when he or she was younger. For example, imagine an older person watching a film for young people. They might say 'There was a time when I would have enjoyed it, but now it just bores me'.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

thank you sir..but i want to know that...i would have enjoyed it...this sentence has two meanings 1. I did enjoy it 2. I i did not ( i would have enjoyed if she had sung well ... something like this) am i wright sir?

Hello maxmamun001,

The sentence refers to an imaginary (not real) past. If a person says 'I would have enjoyed it if...' they are telling us that in reality they did not enjoy it (which is not the same as hated it), and what change would have been necessary for them to enjoy it then.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

sir didnt understand my question is.....i would have enjoyed it now it just bores me...does it mean there was a time i really enjoyed it?

Hello maxmamun001,

As I said, we use 'would have' to talk about an unreal past. If we say 'I would have enjoyed it' then we mean that we did not enjoy it for some reason (but would have if something had been different).

If we add a time reference such as 'once' then we can use 'would have' to refer to typical behaviour: I would have enjoyed it once, but not any more. However, the time reference is necessary ('once', 'at one time', 'when I was a child' etc).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

which one is correct....i have done this three times or i have been done this three times....i have gone for a week or i have been gone for a week....please explain sir if i wanna mention a period of time at the end of a perfect tense
which one should be used

Hello maxmamun,

'three times' is correct in the way you used it and so is 'for a week'. The difference between each pair of sentences is in the verb, not the time phrase. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Please explain the difference between following two sentences-
I used to think how things would have been with you.
I used to think how things would be with you.

Hello neh7272,

Note that neither of these sentences is expressing a wish or hypothesis but rather past actions. What do you think the differences could be? In general, it's much better for your learning if you explain what you think to us; in addition, providing personalised explanations that have little to do with the page is a service we don't offer. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,

I would appreciate it if someone could help me with this question;

Q1. How might you check that a student has understood the following sentence?

I wish I had more free time.

Q2. Indicate which function is being expressed in the following phrase?
There must be campus buses still around at this hour.

These are my answers to the above questions:
My answer to Q1.

Match the following sentence to one or more of the following sentences

I wish I had more free time;

a) I do not have any free time.
b) I have enough free time.
c) I have little free time.
d) I have some free time.

My answer to Q2.

'making a deduction'

Thank you

SFS :)