The use of the past wish in English (EFL/ESL Grammar: rules, use and practice)
What is a wish?
A wish is to want something to happen or to be true even though it is unlikely or impossible. The following table shows how to use wish (in the past) in English.
In English, we express wish in the past when we want something in the past to be different.
- I wish I had had more time.
- If only we hadn’t gone to the party. We missed that amazing movie.
- If only I had visited my uncle.
- If only he had had another chance.
Generally, a past wish is a wish that did not come true. To refer to a past wish, use a past perfect verb after the object. To form the past perfect, use had followed by a past participle verb.
The form of past wish.
Subject + wish + subject + past perfect (had + past participle)
Subject + wished + subject + past perfect (had + past participle)
If only + subject + past perfect (had + past participle)
- She wishes she had submitted her research project in due time.
- If only I hadn’t been
- I wished they hadn’t stolen my money.
Most of the time, a wish about the past suggests or refer to a regret. If time could turn back, the speaker would have done it differently. A past wish has a similar grammatical function to conditional type three and unreal statements.
Note: when we express wish in the past, we refer to hypothetical situations that didn’t actually exist in the past. For example:
- I didn’t have a car…..will be expressed like this….I wish I had had a car
- I didn’t understand Math …….will be expressed like this….. I wish I had understood Math
- I was stupid……………..will be expressed like this……..I wish I hadn’t been stupid.
As you can see:
- The negative form becomes positive and the positive form becomes negative.
- The past tense becomes the past perfect.
Check: Wish in the present