Wishes and Regrets

Wishes and Regrets

Wishes in the Present

We all have things that we would like to change about our lives, our surroundings or even the people we know. For example, perhaps you weigh 200Kg and would prefer to be less than 100Kg. To talk about the things we would like to change, we can use the verb “Wish”. In simple terms, when we say “I wish…” it means “I would like …(this)… to be different”.

Speaking about things in the present that we would like to change

Typical wishes

If we wish about possessions or to change a state, we use ‘wish’ and the original verb in a past form.
Look at the examples below:Wishes relating to states

  • I wish I was rich! (I am not rich! A wish relating to a present state, not an action)
  • I wish I wasn’t here! (I am here! A wish relating to a state, not an action)
  • I wish I knew what to do! (I don’t know what to do! A wish relating to a state, not an action)
  • I wish I had her phone number! (I don’t have her number! A wish about possession, not an action)
  • I wish I lived in America! (I don’t live there! A wish relating to a state, not an action)

Wishes relating to actions

If our wishes relate to actions, we use wish with ‘would’ and a verb infinitive.Typical wishes

  • I wish he would stop talking! (He never stops talking! A wish relating to an action)
  • I wish it would stop raining! (It is raining…)
  • I wish she wouldn’t telephone me every day!
  • I wish he wouldn’t leave his dirty clothes on the floor!

Wishes relating to opportunity, ability, etc

If we wish for opportunity, ability, capability or permission, we use ‘could’ and a verb infinitive.Typical wishes

  • I wish I could stop smoking. (I’m not able to stop smoking)
  • I wish I could swim. (I’m not able to swim)
  • I wish I could remember her name! (I can’t remember.)
  • I wish I didn’t have to go to work today! (I must work, I have no choice)

(Note, we never say “I wish I would…..” – we use other modal verbs instead.)

Wishes in the Past – Wishes and Regrets

We all make mistakes and we all have regrets. Things happen that are not perfect. We often talk about these things and wish for things to be different. In these cases, we use ‘I wish’ with a past perfect form.

Past Wishes – 1

To speak about things that did not happen in the past, but that we wish were true:
We use the form ‘I wish’ with ‘subject + had + verb past participle’ (past perfect).

  • I went to University in Oxford, but now I regret it. Cambridge is a better University.
    We can say: “I wish I had gone to Cambridge University.”
  • Manchester United lost to Barcelona in the Champions League. I wanted Manchester to win.
    We can say: “I wish Manchester had beaten Barcelona.”

Past Wishes – 2

To speak about states or things that happened in the past that we wish were not true:
We use the form ‘I wish’ + subject + negative past perfect’.

  • I went to University in Oxford, but now I regret it. Cambridge is a better University.
    We can say: “I wish I hadn’t gone to Oxford University.”
  • Manchester United lost against Barcelona in the Champions League. I wanted Manchester to win.
    We can say: “I wish Manchester hadn’t lost to Barcelona.”
  • I forgot to write to her. Now she is unhappy with me.
    We can say: “I wish I hadn’t forgotten to write to her.”
  • I resigned from my job, but now I am unemployed. It was a mistake.
    We can say: “I wish I hadn’t resigned from my job.”