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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





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 ?

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.'

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

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?