Using WISH in English Grammar | I Wish – If Only

Using Wish Grammar Lesson! Learn How to Use the Verb Wish in English with useful grammar rules and example sentences.

When we want to express a wish/desire in English for a situation to be different to what it actually is then it is very common to use the verb “to wish”. This verb can be used in different tenses depending on what we desire or desired to be different.

Learn more about English Conditionals.

How to Use Wish in English Grammar

Wish + Past Simple

To express that we want a situation in the present (or future) to be different.


  • I wish I ate more vegetables.  (I don’t eat more vegetables.)
  • He wishes he had a new house. (He does not have a new house.)
  • They wish it was August. (It isn’t August.)
  • I wish I had a bigger car. (Because my car is too small).
  • I wish it was the summer holidays (but it isn’t – I’m still at school).

Wish + Past Continuous

To express that we want to be doing a different activity in the present (or the future).


  • I wish I was playing badminton now. (I’m studying English.)
  • I wish it weren’t raining now. (It is raining now.)
  • I wish you were coming to my party next week. (You are not coming to my party next week.)

Wish + Past Perfect

This wish grammar structure expresses regret. This means we want to be able to change a situation in the past.

Wish sentences:

  • They wish they hadn’t lost the photo. It was a really good one. (They lost the photo.)
  • I wish I hadn’t done it. (I did it.)
  • He wishes he had studied more for their exam. (They didn’t study more for their exam.)
  • He wishes he had studied harder when he was at school. (He didn’t study hard enough – perhaps if he had studied harder he would have gone to university.)
  • They wish they hadn’t scored that goal! (They scored a goal and as a result they probably won’t win the match).

Wish + Would

To express that we want something to happen.


  • I wish my car would start. (I can’t make it start and I want it to start).
  • I wish the lesson would end. (I want it to end).

To express that we want someone to start doing something they do not do.


  • I wish you’d listen to me!

To express that we want someone to stop doing something which annoys us.


  • I wish you wouldn’t borrow my clothes!
  • I wish my mum wouldn’t phone me every five minutes!

Wish + To Infinitive

We can also use “wish” to express “want” in a formal situation, by using wish + to infinitive.


  • I wish to make a complaint and would like to see the manager.

Note: We can use subject + wish + someone as a fixed expression to congratulate them or desire them well.

Wish sentences examples:

  • We wish you a Merry Christmas.
  • We wish you a Happy Birthday.
  • I wish her luck in her new career.
  • She wishes her sister the best of happiness.

Expressing Wishes: Wish Sentences | Image

Using Wish Grammar Lesson! Learn How to Use the Verb Wish in English with useful grammar rules and example sentences.

I Wish/ If Only

If only means I wish. We use I wish… and If only… when we regret something or when we would like something to be different than the way it is. If only is usually stronger than I wish.

Wish sentences:

  • I wish I could fly. = If only I could fly.
  • I wish they would stop fighting. = If only they would stop fighting.

After I wish and If only we can say were/weren’t instead of was/wasn’t.


  • I wish I was home now. /I wish I were home now.

Conditionals – Wish – Unless

English Conditionals