In this week’s blog post, we’re going to take a look at the verb “to wish.” It’s an important word, as it has several uses, so it’s key that we know how to use it correctly. Let’s jump right in.


We use the verb “wish” to express that we want things to be different from how they are now, or were in the past. For example, I don’t have a cat, and I would like that situation to be different. So, I can say: “I wish I had a cat.”


But wait…’had’? I’m talking about the present, about now! Why the past tense? Well, when we use “wish,” we move the verb tense one step back into the past from the time we’re referring to. Therefore, if we’re referring to the present, we put the verb into the past simple. If we’re referring to the past, we put the verb into the past perfect. Imagine you’re talking about yesterday:

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~ “I wish I had cleaned my room yesterday! Now I have to do it today.”


Let’s see a few more examples, for practice:

~ “He wishes he had a piano.” (now)
~ “He wishes he had had a piano when he was young.” (past)
~ “I wish the teacher were teaching us something interesting right now!” (now)


The second use of the word “wish” is to express that we’re unhappy or irritated about something we want to change. As in the above case, “wish” is a verb, but in this case, we also use the word “would” with “wish.” For example, if someone was talking very loudly on their mobile phone on the train, you could say: “I wish he would shut up!” If you’re tired of your husband’s cooking, you could say: “I wish he would stop making pasta with tomato sauce every single night!”

The next use of “wish” is primarily found in formal written English, and it means “to want” (or “would like”). In this case, we follow it with the infinitive with “to.” For example, imagine you are writing a letter to a client of your business. You can say:

~ “We wish to inform you that our offices have moved to a different address.”
~ “I wish to express my utmost respect for your father.”


As mentioned before, remember that this use of “wish” is very formal, and mainly used in written English only.


The last use of “wish” as a verb is when we want something nice to happen to someone. Everybody knows the example “to wish someone a happy birthday,” but note how we can use it in the following examples:

~ “We wish you a Merry Christmas!”
~ “She wished me luck in the big race.”
~ “I wish you a pleasant journey.”


The final use of “wish” is as a noun, and it means “a desire.” In other words, we refer to something that we want. When we blow out the candles on a birthday cake, we make a wish. In certain fantastic stories, a genie grants you three wishes. For example:

~ “My first wish is to be very rich.”
~ “My second wish is to be handsome.”


“No more! No more!” Perhaps this is what you’re saying to your computer screen right now, rocking back and forth in a straightjacket thanks to a wish-induced bout of insanity. Well, your wish is granted- no more uses of “wish!” Practice what you’ve learned in the exercises below.


A. Edstrom

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