We can use the verb ‘to wish’ to express how we would like things to be, either in the present or in the future. We can also use it to talk about how we wished things had been in the past, but as the past can’t be changed these are known as ‘regrets’.
Please note that it is possible to substitute the verb wish with the phrase ‘if only’ for each of the situations above.
Advanced ESL learners may find it quite confusing that ‘wish’ can be used with a number of different tenses. Below we shall look at each of the different uses in turn.
1). Wishes about the present (and future)
wish + past simple
We use wish with the past simple when we want a situation in the present (or the future) to be different.
– I wish I had more money. (= I don’t have enough money.)
– I wish I spoke French. (= I don’t speak French.)
– If only I knew the correct time. (= I don’t know what time it is.)
wish + past continuous
We use wish with the past continuous when we want the action we are doing, or someone else is doing, in the present (or future) to be different.
– I wish I was flying to Spain right now. (= I’m still at home.)
– I wish he was visiting today. (= He is not visiting today.)
– If only you were coming tomorrow. (= You are not coming tomorrow.)
2). Regrets about the past
wish + past perfect
We use wish with the past perfect to express regret about something that happened in the past.
– I wish I had studied more at university. (= I didn’t study enough at university.)
– She wishes she had visited Big Ben. (= She didn’t visit Big Ben.)
– If only I had known your grandfather. (= I never knew your grandfather.)
3). Complaining (Wish + would to express annoyance)
wish + would + bare infinitive + object/gerund
We use wish with would if we are annoyed or impatient with something taking place in the present.
– I wish you would be quiet. (= I am annoyed because you are talking.)
– My mum wishes my brother would not talk with his mouth full. (= My mum is annoyed that my brother is talking while he is eating.)
– If only she would stop talking. (= I am annoyed because she won’t stop talking.)
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If you would like to practice what you have learnt about wishes and regrets grammar, then why don’t you check out our different ESL Wishes and Regrets worksheets.
We currently have the following worksheets expressing wishes and regrets for sale:
– ESL Wishes and Regrets Worksheet ($1.99)
Here are some more resources for wishes and regrets ESL:
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