Intermediate Grammar – How to use “wish”

Minoura, one of our Facebook friends, has asked us about the grammar rules of using “wish”.

The verb “wish” expresses a desire for a situation that doesn’t exist now.

1. Wish + Simple Past

We use “wish” + simple past to express that we want a situation in the present (or future) to be different.

“I wish I lived in Spain” – Right now this person does not live in Spain but would like to in the present.
“He wishes he had a Lambourghini” – Right now this person does not have a Lambourghini but want one in the present.
“They wish it was June” – Right now it’s May and they still have to wait a month to go on holiday in the future.

2. Wish + Past Continuous

We use “wish” + past continuous to express that we want to be doing a different activity in the present (or the future).

“I wish I was eating Spanish food in Barcelona” – Right now this person is in the office, they would like to be in Spain, eating tapas, in the present.
“He wishes he was driving a Lambourghini in Paris” – Right now this person is also in an office, they want to be driving, in the present.
“They wish they were leaving tomorrow to go on holiday” – They aren’t going on holiday, in the future, but would like to.

3. Wish + Past Perfect

We use “wish” + past perfect to express regret. This means we want to be able to change a situation in the past.

“I wish I hadn’t eaten so much chocolate” – This person ate too much chocolate, feels sick and would like to go back to the past and change it.
“He wishes his Dad had bought him a Lambourghini for his birthday” –  This person would have liked a car for his birthday, in the past.
“They wish they had studied more for their exam” – They didn’t study and now would like to go back and study more.

4. Wish + Would

We use “wish” + would + infinitive to express dissatisfaction with the present situation.

“I wish you would stop making so much noise” – The person wants the other to stop making noise.
“He wishes his dog would behave” – The dog is barking and he wants it to stop.

We can also use “wish” to express “want” in a formal situation, for example, we can say “I wish to talk to the headmaster”. We do this by saying “wish” + infinitive.

Finally, we can use subject + wish + someone as a fixed expression to congratulate them or desire them well. For example: “We wish you a Merry Christmas”, “My parents wish you a Happy Birthday”, “I wish you good luck in your new job”, “She wishes her sister the best of happiness”.

We hope this lesson helped you understand how to use “wish”. And remember, if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section!

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About Kate

Kate es profesora y la Social Media Strategist de ABA English. Además de ser una apasionada del mundo social y online, ha sido profesora de inglés más de 10 años, enseñando en Camboya, en India y en España.


  1. Kate

    Great! We’re so happy to hear this, thanks!

  2. I think that the 2nd example for number 1 should be “He wishes he had a Lambourghini” because “wished” is past, so it’s not a situation in the present (or future).

  3. “He wished he had a Lambourghini” DO YOU MEAN “He wishes he had a Lambourghini”?

  4. Kate

    We apologize! It is now fixed.

  5. I need more examples to “ask” using Wish in the past. Ex.: “What did he wish?” >> Is it correct?

  6. thank you

  7. what level of difficulty of i wish?

  8. how do i wish every student comes out to the levels of their excellence but champion of hearts too.Is it correct?

  9. Please, can you help me..
    What is the difference between “hope” and “wish”

    • Kate

      Hello there!
      To hope – it is used for possible situations in the past, present or future.
      To wish – it is used for goals and situations that we want to achieve but that are impossible or completely opposite to our current reality.

  10. hello, may i ask you one question please?? is it possible to use present simple with the verb wish? for. eg is it right to say i wish i become a doctor…

    • Kate

      You can say “I hope to become a doctor”, or “I wish I were a doctor”, or “I wish for (something)”. But you can’t say “I wish I become a doctor”.
      Hope it helps! 😉

  11. Which is more correct’I wish I were’ or I wish I was’?Many thanks in advance.

    • Kate

      Hello there! “Wish I were” is used when referring to a situation that doesn’t exist and never will. “Wish I was” is used when talking about something that could happen or that could have happened in the past.
      Hope this helps! 🙂

  12. Hello!
    I’d like to know whether we can use past perfect continuous with I wish.

    e.g. I wish he hadn’t been driving so fast!

  13. pls tell me wish can be used with present tense Ex. I wish tro go to Jaipu

    • George Talbot


      Thanks for your question. We don’t use wish with the present tense but with the past simple.

      We would say:

      “I wish I had more time” instead of “I wish I have more time”

      If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Did you know that you can also sign up for free to our course http://bit.ly/1L88XAZ

  14. Good I want to become a part of this group

  15. Pls tell me which one is correct and why?
    I wish him success
    I wish him successful

    • George Talbot

      Hi, thank you very much for your question.

      The correct answer is “I wish him success”. Success is a noun, therefore with wish we have to use this example. Alternatively, with successful we can use the verb hope and say: “I hope you are successful”

      If you have any more questions, we are here to help 🙂

  16. Please help me

  17. Which is of these is correct, “I wish to let you know that I regretted . . .” or, “I wanted to let you know that I regretted. . . ” ?

    • George Talbot

      Hi David,

      Thank you for your question. You can say either of the following:

      – I wanted to let you know that I regret

      We use regret in the present because if you conjugate it in the past, it has connotations that you no longer regret it.

      If you have any more questions, do not hesitate to ask us.


  18. Use either of ,neither of ,none of

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