I wish I could master the grammar of ‘I wish’

Many, especially form a non-English background, find it difficult to use the structure ‘I wish’ confidently. The unfamiliarity with the grammar, necessary to use this structure, create uncertainty among us, which is the source of the discomfort commonly felt by many while using this structure.

But the good news is the structures of ‘I wish’ is easy to master. It requires the basic sense of the tenses and a careful reading of this article for ten minutes or so.

Let's jump into it and learn how to express wishes in English once and for all.

There are three types of expressions that could be expressed with the phrase ‘I wish’. You can express wish from three perspective—present, Past, and future. Most of our wishes revolve around the future. So why not start with the future wishes.


The future wishes or I wish + would/could

In order to wish for the future time the words ‘would’ and ‘could’ are essential. They add a sense of futurity in the sentences. Have a look at an example first:

I wish I could solve the energy crisis in the world.

The problem of the energy crisis is still on but I have a desire that someday I would make them go away.


The structure of the future wish

The structure below in the box should be practiced with apt examples so that it becomes intuitive.


sub + wish + sub(2) + would/could + verb (base) + the rest

An example of that would be like the following:

The dad wishes his kids would take more responsibility.

Right now, the kids are not taking responsibility and the dad is expecting they would take responsibility in the future.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the word ‘wish in the first clause takes the requirements of the tense, number, and person. The second clause remains as the structure states.

Now, when to use 'could’ instead of ‘would’? In the second clause, ‘would' and ‘could ’ are not interchangeable. ‘would’ is used when you want something or someone other than you, behaving according to your liking. And ‘could’ is used when the sentence says something about your ability. Compare the two below:

she wishes her husband would be more masculine.
She wishes she could cook wonderful dishes.

In the first instance, she wishes someone, in the case her husband, to be different. Hence ‘would’ is used wheres in the second one she wishes to improve her ability.

To sum it up, if you want things to happen either in immediate future or distant future, use this structure.


The present wish or I wish + I were

In the present wishes, which means you want something to be true now, past structures are used. Let's see some examples to get the idea.

Charlie wishes his new girlfriend did not know about his ex-girlfriends.

Unfortunately, right now, the new girlfriend knows about his ex-girlfriends. charlie is thinking about an imaginary situation where his current girlfriend is unaware of his ex-lovers.

The structure of the present wishes should be like this:

sub + wish + sub(2) + verb (past simple) + the rest

The present wish, basically, means to imagine a situation right now (in present) inside your head and want it to be true. So, it’s an imaginary situation which is not going to happen. Like this one:

She wishes she were a mermaid swimming in the blue water.

She is a human being and she is wondering about being a mermaid. Actually, she is daydreaming.

Also keep in mind, in the second clause of the present wishes ‘were’ is used instead of ‘was’ always.


The past wishes or I wish + I had been

The past wishes are useful to express regrets and remorse. The structure of the past perfect is used in the second part of such sentences.
Here is an example:

Jake wishes he had not discussed the matter with his friends.

In the past, Jake discussed the matter (probably something embarrassing) with his friends and now he feels bad about it.

The structure of the past wishes


   sub + wish + sub(2) + had + verb3 (past perfect) + the rest

Regrets are the things which are commonly expressed with this structure. Look at the sentence below:

I wish I hadn’t gone to college and waste time.

I went to a college and now I am regretful about it.

When you think about a past event and want it to be different than the original one, you should use the structure of the past wishes to express your thoughts.



The difference between ‘hope’ and ‘wish’

The word ‘wish’ is used to express hypothetical situations, meaning the situation is not real. And it is unlikely to happen.

If a situation has a real possibility of occurring ‘hope’ is used. Hopes sometimes become true. on the other hand, wishes have a very tiny possibility of becoming true.

The last point

Before writing sentences with the ‘I wish’ structure, decide which perspective (present. Past or future) fits the narrative of your sentence, and instead of memorizing the structures, uttering some correct sentences multiple times using each of the structure would be more helpful.

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