Wishes and hypotheses

Level: intermediate

Wishes

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

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Wishes 2

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Hypotheses (things we imagine)

Expressions

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

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Hypotheses 2

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Hello Fatimaya,

First of all, thanks for telling us that you've found the site so useful – it really helps us to know that.

As for your question, if you're speaking about a wish that you had in the past, first of all, you should use a past form of 'wish', e.g. 'wished' or 'was wishing'. Then, depending on what you mean, you'd want to use the same verb form 'were travelling' (if you were on the train at the time you wished this) or you could change it a bit to say, e.g., 'had booked first class seats'. So, altogether, that would be: 'I wished we were travelling first class' or 'I wished we had booked first class seats'.

If that doesn't make sense to you, please let us know which part you don't understand.

And thanks again for your kind comment!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Dawn Parks le jeu 10/09/2015 - 04:59

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I was wondering if there might be a mistake on this page. I had been under the impression that when using wish + past tense (for present wishes), one used "were" for all forms of "be". For example, one might say "I wish I were/ he were / they were" and so on. However, this page uses "John wishes he wasn't..." Though I could be wrong, I had thought it would be "John wishes he weren't". Is this a mistake or is my understanding incorrect?

Hello Dawn,

Many traditional grammars teach what you learned, i.e. that 'were' should be used for all forms, but the fact is many people use 'was' as well. 'were' often sounds a bit more formal, but you could hear either form in this kind of sentence.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par F.Hasani le mar 08/09/2015 - 19:52

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Dear The LearnEnglish Team Could you please tell me what the difference between these two questions is? Have you ever had your head shaved? Would you ever have your head shaved? And I'd like to know if there is a difference between the answers to these questions? Thanks Regards

Hello F.Hasani,

The first question is a question in the present perfect tense which asks about someone's life experience (i.e. from the past to the present time). The second one is a hypothetical question about the future, which is explained on this page. The answer to the first would probably use the past simple or present perfect and 'would' would probably be used to answer the second.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par danhof le mar 25/08/2015 - 17:03

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Hello I'd like to ask a question concering the usage of the word "rather". I hope, this is the right place to do so. The following sentence is from an English textbook: "I'd rather you left your dog outside - I'm allergic to animals." This sentence sounds wrong to me, like there is a verb missing after the word "rather". Is it correct? Or is "rather" used as a verb here? Thanks for any help or explanation! Kind regards Daniel

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 25/08/2015 - 20:43

En réponse à par danhof

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Hello Daniel,

The structure here is 'would rather + bare infinitive':

I'd rather go.

I'd rather he go / I'd rather he went. [the meaning is the same for these]

There is a helpful discussion of this, and a comparison with 'would prefer' on the BBC's English language learning page - you can find it here.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par misam le lun 29/06/2015 - 07:38

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hello, I realized that what we use after 'wish' is kind of like unreal conditional sentences, but in examples above I didn't see any examples with perfect modals after wish.I have seen perfect modals used in that clause after wish,however.would you please tell me the diffidence between following sentences: 1.I wish that you had come to the party last night. 2.I wish that you would have come to the party last night. and kindly tell me for desire in the past 'wished' can be used,and how the following clause must be. for example which of following sentences might be correct. 3.I wished you would come yesterday. 4.I wished you had come yesterday. 5.I wished you would have come yesterday. best wishes

Soumis par Kirk le lun 29/06/2015 - 09:47

En réponse à par misam

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Hello misam,

Traditionally, sentence 2 is not considered correct. I say 'traditionally' because it's actually not uncommon to hear people speak like that; but in theory it is not correct – a past perfect form (such as in 1) is the correct form to talk about the past after 'wish'. That is what I teach my students and what I'd recommend you as well.

Sentences 3 and 4 can both be correct, depending on when the moment of wishing vis-à-vis the coming was, though they are a bit unusual. In most cases, I'd recommend using the verb 'want' to speak about a past desire, e.g. 'I wanted you to come'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ko le sam 27/06/2015 - 01:07

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I always fail to manage my time i wish i would manage it or i wish i could manage my time through getting a new job - for future wish. Everyone wishes they earned more money - for the present,. I wish i had sold this even for low price - for the past ,. ohooooo yeaeeeeeee i got it ,.. thank to concerned people,. and this is my first post from this site. Have a nice day friends.,......

Hello Ramachandran G,

Well done! I would make on correction to your examples, however. We would not say 'I wish I would...' as 'would' here. We use 'I wish someone would...' about other people as we are suggesting that they refuse to do something the way we like. Saying this about ourselves makes not sense: if we wish we would do something then we can simply do it!

For example, I can say 'I wish my boss wouldn't talk so loudly on the phone'. I am telling you that my boss does this and it is annoying.

However, I cannot logically say 'I wish I wouldn't talk so loudly on the phone'. If I wish this, then I can simply do it, not complain to myself about my own behaviour!

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par rosario70 le mer 18/03/2015 - 18:01

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hi teachers, i have a little doubt, i noticed the following sentence in a conversation between two persons and one said: if you'd want to come we'd be happy to have you with us tonight. i find out strange the first ' d want.....is it right? then i might say too: if i would be able to fly , i'd go to australia because the it's summer. i hope someone helps me. regards.

Hi rosario70,

The use of 'would' that you ask about was incorrect. There are certain non-standard forms that native speakers often use, but this is not one of them, so I'm afraid I can't explain why that person used it here. But please rest assured that it is not correct in standard English.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par RUT1712 le mar 17/03/2015 - 09:27

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Hi, I'm writing this comment because I've got some doubts about how to use "would" when I am talking about wishes. In this sentence for example: "I have to work on Sunday. I wish I didn't have to work on Sunday" could I use "would" instead of "didn't" as I am wishing something for the future?. The sentence would be: "I wish I wouldn't have to work on Sunday". I would be grateful if you could help me.

Hello Rut,

You can indeed use 'would' in a clause after the verb 'wish' to say that you're not happy that something will not happen, but normally the subject of 'would' is a subject that is not the speaker. In other words, 'I wish I would (or wouldn't) ...' is not typically used, but 'I wish you/he/it (any subject except 'I') would' is correct and in fact quite common.

So 'I wish I wouldn't have to work on Sunday' sounds strange, but you could say 'I wish my boss would let me take Sunday off', or of course what you originally wrote, 'I wish I didn't have to work on Sunday'.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Sebanabc123 le ven 02/01/2015 - 17:01

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Hello All, i want clarification about hypothesis usage.i have written two sentence,is it correct or not a) if i wasn't footballer what i would be done b) if i wasn't footballer what i would have done plz explain me what is the different btw above sentence

Hello Sebanabc123,

The correct forms are:

If I wasn't a footballer what would I do?

If i wasn't a footballer what would I have done?

Both sentences assume that the speaker is a footballer, and imagine an alternative (a hypothetical alternative). The first sentence asks about a hypothetical present - what would I do now (instead of being a footballer). The second sentence asks about a hypothetical past - what would I have done in the past (if the option of being a footballer was not available).

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Adilson Silva le lun 01/12/2014 - 17:53

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The task is great. Yet I guess it's easier for students to understand if one consider this: - WISH + SUBJECT + SIMPLE PAST = talking about complaints or regrets in the present; - WISH + SUBJECT + WOULD + BASE FORM = talking about complaints when you want someone to do something for you; - WISH + SUBJECT + PAST PERFECT = talking about complaints or regrets in the past.

Soumis par Eng.Learner le lun 27/10/2014 - 13:28

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Hello Team, Could you please explain the difference between these sentences. 1. I supposed to be at station by three o'clock. 2. I should be at station by three o'clock. Both sentences give same information about when 'subject = I' arrives at station(i.e., tells about future). Is there any nuance between them? Thanks!

Hello Eng.Learner,

'be supposed to' is used to say speak about what we have to do according to some set of rules, or to indicate what we expect to happen. 'should' can also be used to talk about the same kind of obligation or expectation, but has a much wider range of uses. What they mean in your sentences really depends on the context in which they are used, but in general 1 is likely to be about rules (e.g. my train ticket says I must be there at that time) and 2 might reflect a more personal decision (e.g. I like to be early for departures, therefore I've decided I want to be there at that time).

By the way, sentence 1 is not grammatically correct - it should say 'I'm supposed to be...'

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Aljefri le lun 06/10/2014 - 15:17

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Hypothesis 1- we should buy ready food , in case my mother don't cook the lunch. 2-we should buy ready food , in case my mother didn't cook the lunch. please cofirm my understanding A) I suggest that to buy cooked food in both sentences B) the Probability of that my mother will cook the lunch In sentence 1, the percintage of the Probability is high In sentence 2, the percintage of the Probability is very low or 0% may you confirm my Understanding or write accordingly

Hello Aljefri,

The two sentences should be a little different:

1 - We should buy a ready-made meal, in case my mother doesn't cook lunch.

2 - we should buy a ready-made meal, in case my mother didn't cook lunch.

The difference here is not probability, but time. In the first sentence the cooking will or will not take place in the future - the time for cooking has not yet come. In the second sentence the cooking has or has not already taken place, though you do not yet know the outcome.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Peter M very much for adjusting sentences and clarification.

Soumis par tagrapankaj le ven 01/08/2014 - 07:57

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The result would have been different if they had used there chances properly. And The result would have different if they had used their chances properly. There is only difference of been in the sentence. Would it change the meaning if i don't use it. Plz also explain been, where it should be used exactly.

Hello tagrapankaj,

The first sentence is correct, apart from the use of 'there', which should be 'their':

The result would have been different if they had used their chances properly.

This is an example of a conditional form describing an unreal or alternative past event and result, sometimes called a 'third conditional' form. To make this form we use:

if + had + past participle [= past perfect]... (then) would have + past participle

'Been' is necessary as it is the past participle of 'be'; without it the form of the past perfect is incorrect. Of course, other verbs can be used in third conditional sentences, but the [had + past participle] form is necessary, whether that past participle is 'been' or something else.

You can find more information on third conditional forms here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Syed sami ul haq le mer 30/07/2014 - 03:38

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Hi sir, If we have to add something in wishes first and second (future and present) sentences how will we do that? For example, I wish I would be so rich, then my father would ask me where had/did you got this money. I wish I were the father of my father, I didn't allow him to meet his friends and to make fun then he realized How it hurts me. These are the two right or have some mistakes. Please guide me. Thanks a lot

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 30/07/2014 - 07:31

En réponse à par Syed sami ul haq

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Hi Syed sami ul haq,

You can find information on these structures on this page, and I think that will help you to see how they are formed and used. However, we do not use 'wish' in this way. I am not entirely sure about what you are trying to say, so it is hard for me to correct the sentences. However, I would guess that what you are trying to say is as follows:

I wish I was so rich that my father would ask me where I got this money.

I wish I were the father of my father, because then I wouldn't allow him to meet his friends and to have fun so that he would realise how it hurts me.

I hope that helps to answer your questions.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Sir in my first sentence I meant that it is my wish that in future I become so rich and after happening that my father asks me a question where you got this money from. In second sentence I meant it is my wish that I am father of my father in present then I give him a lesson that what he does with me is not fair by imposing restrictions on him. Thanks

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 31/07/2014 - 07:06

En réponse à par Syed sami ul haq

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Hello Syed sami ul haq,

The sentences that Peter wrote above communicate what you explain in your comment, but are wishes that you don't expect to come true. For wishes that we think have some chance of coming true, we use the verb hope. You might want to consider using hope for the first sentence:

I hope that I become so rich that my father will ask me where I got the money.

For the second sentence, only wish is appropriate, as it is not reasonable to expect that you will become your father's father, at least in this life!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, In your explanations you have used ' was ' in the first sentence and ' were ' in the second sentence . How would the meanings change if we interchange ' was ' and ' were ' ? Thank you

Soumis par Syed sami ul haq le mar 29/07/2014 - 03:04

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Hi sir, I have a few queries regarding wishes. A. Could we use "would that" instead of using wish? Will it give the same meaning? B.could I make a sentence in this way? "I wish your drafted report would be accepted" C.we typically use the word wish for intentions , willingness, praying to God and Something which is unlikely to happen. My question is what meaning wish is being used here for? Thanks and sorry for asking 3 questions in same time.

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 29/07/2014 - 06:41

En réponse à par Syed sami ul haq

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Hi Syed sami ul haq,

There is a very old/archaic form which used 'would that' in place of 'wish', as in sentences like this:

I would that he were with me now! (in modern English: 'I wish he were with me now!')

However, this is not used in modern English and is found only in old literary texts.

We would use 'hope' rather than 'wish' in your second example:

I hope (that) your draft report will be accepted / is accepted.

I don't understand your third question. To which sentence are you referring when you say 'here'? If you are referring to the example with the report then, as I said, we would not use 'wish' in that example.

I hope that answers your questions.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Learner S le lun 31/03/2014 - 20:55

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Hi sir, Could you plz explain how we will write about present hypothesis.....I have read about past hypothesis and future hypothesis,but not about present hypothesis....

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 03/04/2014 - 08:34

En réponse à par Learner S

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Hi Learner S,

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by 'present hypothesis'.  There are many ways of talking about unreal present, of speculating about the present and so on.  Could you provide an example of the kind of meaning you have in mind, and then we'll try to help you to express it?

Thank you,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ridham le dim 05/05/2013 - 09:16

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Hello,
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.

Thanks

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.

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello muntaziri,

'Doesn't' is used with third person singular nouns or pronouns.  'Don't' is used with plural nouns.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team