1. Wishing life was different

To talk about things you wish were different, use:

  • subject + ‘wish’ + past tense

The past tense section expresses what the subject wants.

*Note: although the past tense is used, it is talking about things now. This is because ‘wish’ moves tenses backwards.

ProblemSubject + wishWishWant
(past tense)
Example sentence
I have a small houseIwishI had a bigger houseI wish I had a bigger house.
Joan has no carJoanwishesshe owned a carJoan wishes she owned a car.
You have to workYouwishyou didn’t have to workI know you wish you didn’t have to work.
The class gets bad test scoresThe classwishesit got better test scoresThe class wishes it got better test scores.

2. Wish + ‘can’

If a subject cannot do something, but wishes they can do something:

  • subject + wish + ‘could’ phrase

*’Could’ replaces ‘can’

ProblemSubjectWishWant to be able to
(‘could’ phrase)
Example sentence
I cannot flyIwishI could flyI wish I could fly.
You can see meYouwishYou couldn’t see meI bet you wish you couldn’t see me.
The council cannot afford a new city hallThe councilwishesit could afford a new city hallThe council wishes it could afford a new city hall.

3. Wish + ‘will’

If something is not happening, and a subject wishes it will happen (i.e. behaviour change):

  • subject + wish + ‘would’ phrase

*‘Would’ replaces ‘will’

*Note: this wish is for wanting something to happen (behaviour change), not a future tense. To express a desire for a future event to happen, ‘hope’ is the usual structure (e.g. They hope I will call them tomorrow).

ProblemSubjectWishBehaviour change
(‘would’ phrase)
Example sentence
The children keep shouting in the houseTheir parentswishthe children would stop shouting in the houseTheir parents wish the children would stop shouting in the house.
He will not look at herShewisheshe would look at herShe wishes he would look at her.
She will keep calling SeanSeanwishesshe wouldn’t keep calling himSean wishes she wouldn’t keep calling him.

4. Exercises

Complete these sentences using the wish + past tense structure:
a) I wish I …
b) Daniel wishes he …
c) My boss wishes I ….
d) I wish my boss …

2. What things do you wish were different in the world?