Improve your English grammar by learning five different ways to use the word ‘wish’.

For a quiz, transcript and more grammar notes:


I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish… Oh! It only works if you know the grammar rules! I completely forgot. So here is the complete ‘wish’.
Wish has five uses in English and today we’re going to cover them all. Are you ready? Go!

  1. Wish for present or past that isn’t real.

This is the most common form of wish. It’s when we wish for a situation in the present or past to change, but we know that it can’t change because it’s impossible.

‘I wish I were taller.’ (because I am not tall) Or: ‘I wish I had eaten ice-cream for breakfast this morning.’ (because I didn’t eat ice cream for breakfast this morning).

I wish I were taller is an example of a present wish. It is ‘wish’ plus the past simple. We often use ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ for all pronouns because of the subjunctive. I could also say:

‘I wish I knew how to speak Chinese.’ (because I don’t know how to speak Chinese.)

I wish I had eaten ice-cream for breakfast this morning is an example of a past wish. This morning is a past time; we make a past wish. ‘Wish’ is followed by the past perfect, which is had plus the past participle. That indicates true past time. Did you get it?

  1. Wish for an irritation that can change.

Another common form of wish is to use ‘wish’ plus would plus the bare infinitive. And this is often in regards to other people and our irritation. For example:

‘I wish you would make the bed!’

This is a present wish, but unlike the wishes I discussed before, this wish means ‘I believe you can change and something can be done’. Compare:

‘I wish you would make the bed,’ means ‘I think you can, but you don’t, so please do.

‘I wish you made the bed’ means ‘you don’t and I don’t think you ever will so…’

It is extremely uncommon to use a first person ‘I’ in this form of wish. This is because we have control over our own actions, so to say:

‘I wish I would stop talking,’ means I want to stop talking, and I believe I can stop talking, so why don’t I?’

However, in terms of an illness or an addiction, this form is fine. When I say ‘I wish I would stop smoking’ it means ‘I don’t want to smoke anymore, but I can’t stop because I’m addicted.’ Someone give me a cigarette! Did you get it?

  1. Wish to want

Wish followed by the full infinitive is a formal way of saying want. It’s not very common, and only used in special circumstances, for example, when you want to make a polite formal complaint. For example: ‘I wish to see the manager.’

We can also use wish followed by ‘for’ to attach an object that you want. And this is most often used in the circumstances of magic. For example: ‘I wish for a pizza.’ Got it?

  1. Wish to send ‘good vibrations’.

We can use the verb wish followed by two objects, the first of which is most often a pronoun, to send ‘good vibrations’ to somebody. This is more common than hope and it is used in fixed phrases such as:

‘I wish you luck for your exam tomorrow.’ or ‘We wish you a merry Christmas.’ Got it?

  1. Wish for the future.

This is a trick, because apart from sending good vibrations, as mentioned before, we cannot use the verb ‘wish’ in this way. We need another verb, and the verb is ‘hope’. And this is usually followed by ‘will’ plus the infinitive. So, for example:

‘I hope you will pass your exam.’

Got it? Did you get it? Of course you got it! Now for more information please log on to I’ve been Dan, you’ve been fantastic. I hope to see you next time, ok? Now. I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish… it works! Hahahaha!

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