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How to Use Wish in Different Tenses

The verb “wish” expresses a desire for a situation that doesn’t exist now. Moreover, we can use the verb wish to desire about a situation that didn’t exist in the past or will not exist in the future. In this article I am going to describe how to use wish in different tenses: in past, present and future.

How to Use Wish in Different Tenses
How to Use Wish in Different Tenses

How to Use Wish in Different Tenses

Wishes about the present or future
Wish + (that) + past simple:
We use “wish” + (that) + simple past to express that we want a situation in the present (or future) to be different.

  •  I wish that I had a beautiful house. (I don’t have a beautiful house, but it’s a nice idea!).
  •  I wish that we didn’t need to work today. (We do need to work today, unfortunately).
  •  They wish it was June – Right now it’s May and they still have to wait a month to go on holiday in the future.
  •  He wishes that Ali wasn’t busy tomorrow. (He is busy, unfortunately).

Wish With Would or Could:

We can also use ‘could’ and ‘would’ with ‘wish’ to talk about wishes for the present or future.

  •  I wish that I could speak Urdu (but, unfortunately, I can’t speak Urdu).
  •  I wish that I could drive a car. (I can’t drive).
  •  That’s a dreadful noise. I wish it would stop.
  •  I always have to get home early. I wish my parents would let me stay out later

Wish + (that) + would:
Wish + would + bare infinitive is used to express impatience, annoyance or dissatisfaction with a present action.

  •  I wish that Ahmad wouldn’t eat all the chocolate. (Ahmad does usually eat all the chocolate and I don’t like it. I want him to change his behavior!)
  •  I wish that you wouldn’t smoke so much! (You do smoke a lot and I don’t like it. I want you to change this.)
  •  I wish she’d be quiet. (I am annoyed because she is speaking.)

Note: We don’t usually use ‘wish’ in this way for things that are really possible in the future. Instead, we use ‘hope’.

  •  I hope that you pass your exam. (NOT: I wish that you passed the exam).
  •  I hope that it’s sunny tomorrow. (NOT: I wish that it was sunny tomorrow).

Using wish to offer good wishes:

You can also use ‘wish’ with a noun to ‘offer good wishes’ and with fixed expressions.

  •  I wish you all the best in your new job.
  •  We wish you a happy  Eid.
  •  I wish you a happy birthday.
  •  We wish you good luck in your new job.

Using wish to be doing different actions in the present or future:

Wish + past continuous is used to express that we want to be doing or having a different action in the present (or future).

  •  I wish I was lying on a beach now. (I’m sitting in the office)
  •  I wish it wasn’t raining. (It is raining)
  •  I wish you weren’t leaving tomorrow. (You are leaving tomorrow)

Wishes about the past

Wish + past perfect is used to express a regret, or that we want a situation in the past to be different.

  •  I wish I hadn’t eaten so much. (I ate a lot)
  •  I wish they’d come on holiday with us. (They didn’t come on holiday)
  •  I wish I had studied harder at school. (I was lazy at school)

Wish and want
Wish + infinitive or wish + object + infinitive is used to mean want in a formal situation.

  • I wish to leave now. (+ Infinitive)
  •  I wish to speak to your supervisor please. (+ Infinitive)
  •  I do not wish my name to appear on the list. (+ Object + infinitive)

Learn about all usages of wish in past, present and future, Remember in the usages above, we used the verb wish + simple past or past continuous but it refers to present or future situation.

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