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

MultipleChoice_MTY0NzM=

Wishes 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0NzQ=

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

MultipleChoice_MTY0NzU=

Hypotheses 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0NzY=

 

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Hello Kamil,

It's hard to be sure without knowing exactly what you want to say, but here are two possibilities:

I wish I looked as cute as I did when I was a child.

- here the speaker is talking about the present and is a little sad that he or she doesn't look as cute anymore

 

I wish/want to look as cute as I did when I was a child.

- here the speaker is making a request to someone such as a hairdresser or a make-up artist; it means something like 'Please make me look as cute as when...'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Oh thanks...indeed, there is no English teacher like you ...thnks
Sir... why have u used did ...please explain

Hello Kamil,

'Did' is used here to avoid repeating 'looked' twice in the same sentence:

 

I wish I looked as cute as I looked when I was a child.

I wish I looked as cute as I did when I was a child.

 

I wish/want to look as cute as I looked when I was a child.

I wish/want to look as cute as I did when I was a child.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kamil on Fri, 04/10/2019 - 05:49

Permalink
I wish it would stop raining. I wish it was not raining. Sir, what's the difference between these two

Hello Kamil

There is no real difference in meaning in most contexts. Native speakers often use 'will' or 'would' to express the idea of willingness, that is, whether someone wants to do something. In this and many other cases, 'would' is used in this way even though its subject is not a person or even a living being -- it's as if we are imagining that nature or a god wants it to rain and that's why it's raining.

The second sentence expresses the idea that we wish things were different, but without the idea of there being a reason for it.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Sat, 18/05/2019 - 06:21

Permalink
Hello Sir I wrote to you about this a few minutes ago. That is ' I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any subject.' That was the founder's motto for ... Please let me know the following is right. That is ' I would have found an institution where any person could find instruction in any subject.' Is this what the writer mean? 'wishes and hypothesis' Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal
Hello Lal, The original sentence is correct. The verb is 'found', not the past participle of 'find': https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/found ~ Peter Moran
The verb to find's past simple conjugation is found i.e. I found, she found, we found. However, there is also the verb 'to found' which is different from 'to find'. The past participle of 'to found' is founded 'founded'. So, if you want to create that conditional structure (third conditional) it would be "I would have founded..." rather than "I would have found" - which would be an error in this case. There is no problem with "I would found..." provided it's used to construct a second conditional. "I would have found" would work in a sentence (3rd conditional) such as: "If I had looked under the sofa, I would have found my keys and I wouldn't have wasted two hours looking for them!" I hope this helps.

Submitted by Lal on Sat, 18/05/2019 - 05:26

Permalink
Hello Sir Is it right to say ' I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any subject.' That was the founder's motto for Cornell University ,and it … I found the above in IELTS Cambridge Book 12 page 24. I think it should be 'I would find ... I am I right ? Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Submitted by Jessica.S on Tue, 07/05/2019 - 15:26

Permalink
Dear teachers, is the construction wish + would + past infinitive possible? For example: "I wish she would have called me when she was in trouble" (but she didn't). I've found some usage of this construction, for example in this song by Arctic Monkeys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDIslAv6d5Y but no grammar reference, is it grammatically correct? If so, what is the difference between "I wish she would have called me" and "I wish she had called me"? Thank you in advance, Jessica
Hello Jessica This construction is not considered correct in any normative grammar that I know of, but this doesn't mean that people don't use it. The 'correct' form is 'I wish she had called me when she was in trouble', in which a past perfect form is used to speak about an unreal past event. You can see more about this on this page: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/wish-and-if-only This is one of a number of non-standard forms (another, for example, is 'ain't' instead of 'am/are/is') that are actually quite common in informal speaking. I discourage my students from using such forms, as native speakers are likely to consider them wrong when used by non-native speakers. It's not really fair, but that's the way most people would react! All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Wed, 17/04/2019 - 22:44

Permalink
Sir, I wish I lived here. I wish I could live here. I wish you lived here. I wish you could live here. I wish you would live here. The first one in both pair of sentences says that that you have the capability of living here but you don't want to and the other one says that you don't have the capability and the third one in the second pair says that I want you to live here because you not living here annoys me, isn't it ?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 19/04/2019 - 07:30

In reply to by SonuKumar

Permalink
Hello SonuKumar, I'm afraid I can't follow your question. You have five examples here, so I'm not sure what you mean by 'each pair', and I don't understand what 'the third one in the second pair' means. A pair is two, so I don't know what 'the third one' can be. ~ More generally, please remember that it's a lot easier for us to respond to particular questions about particular examples than to descriptions of lists of sentences, which require multiple long and detailed answers which go beyond the purposes of the comments sections. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 04/04/2019 - 19:56

Permalink
Hello. I am talking with my friend. He tells me that his brother is going to marry next month. Can I say: I wish he would have a happy life. Or I wish he could have a happy life. Or both are correct Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 05/04/2019 - 07:51

In reply to by Ahmed Imam

Permalink
Hello Ahmed Imam, We would usually use the verb 'hope' for this: 'I hope he has a happy life.' If you want to use the verb 'wish' then the form is a little different: 'I wish him a happy life.' Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rosario70 on Mon, 04/03/2019 - 14:31

Permalink
Hi teachers, i have a question for you over next sentences: 1) If i was gonna bother you i'd kick you out of the club; 2) If i wanted to bother you i'd kick you out of the club; I was wondering if those ones could have the same meaning, and if no which is the difference?Anyway the first is a imaginary sentence is'nt it? Thanks in advance!

Hi rosario70

The two sentences mean the same thing, but the first one is quite informal and the second one is neutral. Both are a second conditional structure.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 24/02/2019 - 21:15

Permalink
Could you help me? - Ali would like to travel abroad when he grows up. (wish) Can I say: Ali wishes he could travel abroad when he grows up. Or Ali wishes he travelled abroad when he grew up. or Ali wishes he travelled abroad when he grows up. Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I'm afraid we don't provided help with questions from elsewhere (books, tests, homework, other sites etc). We're happy to comment about the material on our own pages, of course, or on ponts of English which are problematic for our users, but we don't provide answers for tasks or exercises. We don't want to end up doing our users' homework for them, after all!

The information you need is on this page: We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manuel24 on Thu, 22/11/2018 - 18:37

Permalink
hello."I thought that you spoke english" or "I thought that you would speak english"?which is the correct?

Hello manuel24,

Both are grammatically correct but have different meanings. The first sentence (spoke) is about whether or not the person is able to speak English. The second sentence (would speak) assumes that the person can speak English and is about whether or not they choose to do so in a particular situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Excuse me Peter but I'm not sure I understood everything,can you show me any example?

Hi manuel24,

For example, if you and I traveled to London and someone there started speaking to you in English and you turned to me, expecting me to respond, I could say 'I thought you spoke English'. This would indicate that I was expecting you to reply since you know English.

For the second, if we met a Swedish person in the UK and I you spoke to her in French even though you speak English better than French, I could say 'I thought you would speak in English' since I was expecting you to speak the language that you know better.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by UmmLayla on Mon, 05/11/2018 - 14:26

Permalink
Hello, could you please explain what is difference between could and would with using wish. For example: 1)I wish I could go to the library or 2) I wish I would go to the library. Thank you in advance.

Hello UmmLayla,

The second sentence is not correct.

We use 'wish + could' when something is not possible and we are not happy about this:

I wish I could go to the library = I can't go to the library and I'm not happy about this.

 

We use 'wish + would' when someone does not want to do something and we are not happy about this:

I wish she would come to the party = She refuses to come to the party and I'm not happy about this.

 

We don't use 'wish + would' about ourselves because if we are not happy about a decision we make then we can simply make a different decision.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by babuer on Tue, 06/03/2018 - 05:36

Permalink
hello geeks, Q. It is raining . A. I wish it will stop . Is it correct. I am really confused..."I hope it will stop " seems to be correct .need more clarification ,please .

Hello babuer,

To talk about the future after 'hope' we use a present form:

I hope it stops.

 

You could also use 'wish':

I wish it would stop raining.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SahilK on Sun, 04/02/2018 - 19:28

Permalink
Hello, Sir please tell me which sentence is correct and why: 1) If we hadn't been waiting for you we would already be eating dinner by now. 2) If we hadn't been waiting for you we would have been eating dinner by now. Thank you in advance.

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 05/02/2018 - 12:56

In reply to by SahilK

Permalink

Hello SahilK,

Which one do you think is correct and why (or why not)?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sienna7 on Sun, 21/01/2018 - 13:06

Permalink
Hello Sir, I'd like to know if my English lesson (made by my teacher) is correct or not. We work on the expression of wishes and regrets. This is my lesson : "For expressing a wish for oneself : I wish + to + Verb For expressing a wish for someone else : I wish + direct object complement + to + Verb For expressing a wish for someone else : I wish + Subject + CAN + Verb Examples : I wish to get my driver's license soon ! I wish you to pass your French exam !" There is also one sentence that seems strange to me : "I wish you can come shopping with me." Can you please tell me if that lesson is correct or not ? Thank you. Your faithfully,

Hello Sienna7,

I'd encourage you to speak with your teacher about the lesson; perhaps he or she was speaking of a specific context. Some of the constructions, like the first one, are correct but are very unusual -- no one would use this construction in informal, or even many formal, settings, for example. The last sentence you ask about is almost correct -- if you change 'can' to 'could' then it will be correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SahilK on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 21:01

Permalink
Hello, Sir I was looking at this sentence, "I wish I lived in somewhere more interesting". So, can't we write it as "I wish I was living in some place or somewhere more interesting"? Other doubt is in the sentence that I want to frame like sir, if you just imagine a situation where me and my friend both went for an interview but unfortunately he didn't get selected. So if I want to frame this situation in a sentence would that be like " I got selected in the interview but my friend didn't. I wish he also had been selected" and if this is correct then please tell me why have we used "had been" here ? And sir can you suggest me some ways to improve my spoken English ? Thank you in advance

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 09:01

In reply to by SahilK

Permalink

Hello SahilK,

We do not use 'in' before 'somewhere', so the correct sentence would be:

I wish I lived somewhere more interesting

You can reformulate this as:

I wish I was living in some place more interesting

I wish I was living somewhere more interesting

 

Your second sentence is almost correct, but the word order needs to be slightly different:

I wish he had also been selected

The past perfect is used here because you are describing a past situation which is not real: he was not selected in the past and you are imagining/wishing for something different. We use the past simple for unreal present wishes ('I wish he was...') and the past perfect for unreal past wishes ('I wish he had been...').

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M, I agree that "I wish I lived in somewhere more interesting" should not contain "in". However it is an example following he rule written above. Please either correct it or infrom the editors)

Hello Olena Sokol,

Thank you for letting me know. We try hard to ensure that our pages do not have errors but sometimes they can creep through. I have corrected the sentence on the page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by KHURRAM USMAN on Fri, 15/12/2017 - 19:11

Permalink
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. hi can you explain why we have used could have in the present tense as you have stated 'If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have: If I had got the job we would be living in Paris now. = I did not get the job so we are not living in Paris now. If you had done your homework you would know the answer. = You did not do your homework so you do not know the answer.

Hello KHURRAM USMAN,

This sentence is confusing but it does keep to the rule as stated. When we say 'a modal with have' we mean a perfect modal. That is to say [modal + have + past participle]:

could have gone

could have eaten

could have seen

could have had

 

A present modal is followed by a bare infinitive [modal + infintive without 'to']:

could go

could eat

could see

could have

As you can see, 'could have' in your sentence is not a perfect modal as there is no past participle after it. It is a present modal with an infinitive following it, but because the infinitive is the verb 'have' it looks like it is a perfect modal form. An easy mistake to make!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zeeshan Siddiqii on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 08:55

Permalink
Hi, If we talk about parents behavior and we want to say that parents don't allow time to kids so that the kids can share their problems with them, which of the following do you think is right? a) I agree that these days parents don't give their kids time (for discussion). b) I agree that these days parents don't spend time with their kids (for discussion).

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 11/12/2017 - 08:39

In reply to by Zeeshan Siddiqii

Permalink

Hello Zeeshan,

Both sentences are fine, though I'd recommend saying something like 'to talk about their problems' instead of 'discussion', as 'discussion' could imply something for more formal than what you seem to be talking about.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zeeshan Siddiqii on Sat, 02/12/2017 - 09:52

Permalink
Dear Peter M If you could let me know what clause fits the situation: A wants to be with B after death; i.e. A wishes to be in heavens with B. This is for future and something that A is not certain about, whether he'll be able to be with B or not, he only can wishes so during the life so now what is the best: a) I wish I could be with B in heavens. b) I hope I will be with B in heavens. c) I wish I were with B in heavens. d) I wish to be with B in heavens.

Hello Zeeshan,

'Hope' usually refers to something in the future or present. It describes something which is still possible. 'Wish' usually has a past or present time reference and describes a hypothetical situation. it is often used to talk about things we regret.

Since in this case you're clearly speaking about the future, sentence b) (with 'hope') is the best choice.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zeeshan Siddiqii on Thu, 30/11/2017 - 10:21

Permalink
Dear mentors, On the esteemed website on 'wish' page I read this "When we talk about present regrets, both wish and if only are followed by the past simple tense.". Rather, in a book I read this "Past tenses are used with a present or future meaning." If you can guide me please whether past tense in 'wish' clause refers to present regret only or it may refer to future meaning as well? Secondly what is the difference between the two: a) I wish I had a car. b) I wish I could have a car.

Hello Zeeshan,

I suppose one could say that it refers to the future in a way, but I'd say it's more the idea of a different situation now in the present. If you want to speak about the future, you can use 'I hope' -- see my colleague Peter's response to another use below.

As for the two sentences, a) is simply about having a car whereas b) is about someone or your situation allowing you to have a car.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LITTLE STAR PERLAS on Thu, 30/11/2017 - 00:12

Permalink
Hi! I'd like to know how can I get to download the contents: exemples and context.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 30/11/2017 - 07:23

In reply to by LITTLE STAR PERLAS

Permalink

Hi LITTLE STAR PERLAS,

The content of our pages is only available for download where you can see a support pack link, which is generally on our listening and reading pages. You can use the 'Printer-friendly version' link (just above the comments section) to see a version which can be printed on paper, however.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by diegoflores0703 on Wed, 18/10/2017 - 07:00

Permalink
Hi, Can I say "I wish I would...?" And what's the difference between "I hope... and I wish...?" please? Thank you in advance, Diego P.S.: Don't hesitate in correct me

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 18/10/2017 - 07:39

In reply to by diegoflores0703

Permalink

Hi diegoflores0703,

We use 'would' after 'wish' to talk about choice and decision rather than hypothetical changes in the world. For example:

 

I wish he didn't live here. [talking about an imagined reality]

I wish he wouldn't play music so loud. [talking about his choice to do this]

 

We don't generally say 'I wish I would...' because we generally assume that we have the power to choose to do or not do something, and so rather than saying 'I wish I would...' we simply do it.

'Hope' usually refers to something in the future or present. It describes something which is still a real possibility.

'Wish' usually has a past or present time reference and describes a hypothetical situation. it is often used to talk about things we regret.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team