Wish Clauses

In English we express desire and regret in different ways, and the two most common methods of doing this are in the "would" and ‘wish’ forms. The former, "would", is often used in conjunction with words such as "like" and "love", while "wish" is used with a variety of words.


  • Would you like something to eat or drink?
  • Yes please, I would love a glass of milk, if you have any.
  • For once, I would like to go to the cinema without having to sit behind a really tall person.
  • I would love to be able to go to sleep, but I have to finish this essay by tomorrow.
  • I want to go the theatre this weekend, but I’m too busy.


The wish clause looks different depending on what time we're refering to.

a) When we refer to the present, past form of a verb is used.

  • I’m shorter than I want to be. I wish I were/was taller.
  • I wish I weren’t/wasn’t so lazy; then I would have done this work long ago.
  • It is too cold in New York. I wish it weren’t / wasn’t so cold.

b) When we regret events in the past.

  • I wish I had told him how much I loved him.
  • I wish I were/was able to take you to the zoo, but I have to wash my car.
  • I’m tired, but I need to be at work in an hour. I wish I didn’t have to go to work.

c) When we want to express a desire for future events, we may use "wish" along with "would", as the first example demonstrates:

  • We came to the mountains to ski, and there is no snow. I wish it would snow.
  • My brother and sister are fighting over the computer. I wish they would come to an agreement.
  • I can’t get to sleep because my brother keeps snoring. I wish he would stop.
  • I’m sitting in a boring English class and I want it to stop. I wish it would end.

In wish clauses, most verbs can go alongside "would". However, there are two important verbs which do not: "to be" and "to have".