ENGLISHPairs of Words

WISH & IF ONLY

WISH & IF ONLY

We use IF ONLY to express a strong wish that things could be different. It means the same as I WISH but IF ONLY is stronger. We use it to talk about past, present and future unreal conditions.

PRESENT WISHES

We can use WISH/IF ONLY + A PAST FORM + THAT-CLAUSE to talk about a present situation we would like to be different (impossible desire or a regret. In other words when we feel sad for a situation we can use either WISH 0r IF ONLY with a THAT-CLAUSE. In the THAT-CLAUSE we use a past tense (simple and continuous), not a present tense or a future tense.

INCORRECT: I wish/If only he knows the truth.
CORRECT: I wish/If only he knew the truth. (= he doesn’t know the truth, but he wishes he knew it.)

INCORRECT: I wish/If only I have a car.
CORRECT: I wish/If only I had a car. (= I don’t have a car, but I wish I had it.)

INCORRECT: I wish/If only there is something she could do or say to help.
CORRECT: I wish/If only there was something she could do or say to help.

1. I never have enough time and I wish/if only I had more.
2. I wish/If only you didn’t live so far away.
3. I wish/If only I could help you, but I can’t.
4. I envy you. I wish/If only I were going away too.
5. If only we knew what to do.
6. He wishes he could afford a holiday.
7. I wish I were going with you. (= but I’m not)

NOTE: The verb of the THAT-CLAUSE is in the subjunctive mood, hence use WERE instead of WAS; e.g.

1. I wish/If only she weren’t so tired.
2. I wish/If only I were going on holiday.

 

PAST  WISHES

We can use WISH/IF ONLY + A PAST PERFECT FORM  + THAT-CLAUSE to talk about something we would like to change about the past. In other words we use this to talk about a wish to change something that has already happened, and hence it’s a regret about the past); e.g.

a) I wish/If only I had sold my bike.
b) I wish/If only he had listened to what his friends had been telling him. (= He didn’t listen.)
c) I wish/If only Arun had been able to come. (= Arun wasn’t able to come.)
d) They wish they hadn’t eaten so much chocolate. They’re feeling very sick now.
e) I wish/If only I’d studied harder when I was at school.
f) I wish/If only I had woken up early. (=I didn’t wake up early and I missed my bus.)

NOTE-I: We use the same tense in the THAT-CLAUSE when the verb WISH is in the past, e.g.

a) She wished she lived in Delhi.
b) The woman wished she could help them.

NOTE-II: For a present wish we use a past tense other than the past perfect, and for a past wish we use the past perfect tense in the THAT-CLAUSE; e.g.

a) I wish that she were here now. (present wish)
b) I wish that she had been here yesterday. (past wish)

NOTE-III: We can also use COULD in the THAT-CLAUSE; e.g.

a) I wish I could climb that wall.
b) He wished he could believe her.

NOTE-IV: For a present wish we can also use WOULD in the THAT-CLAUSE. We do this if we want something to happen, and we are annoyed or worried because it has not happened already, in such situations we often feel that they are unlikely or unwilling to change; e.g.

a) I wish he would leave early!
b) I wish someone would explain it to me.
c) I wish you would find out the facts before you start accusing people.
d) I wish you wouldn’t borrow my clothes without asking.
e) I wish it would rain. The garden really needs some water.
f) She wishes he’d work less. They never spend any time together.
g) I wish you wouldn’t arrive so late all the time (= I’m annoyed because you always come late and I want you to arrive on time)

NOTE-V: To express a wish for the future we don’t use the verb WISH with a THAT-CLAUSE, rather we use HOPE; e.g.

INCORRECT: I wish you’ll have a nice time in Nepal.
CORRECT: I hope you’ll have a nice time in Nepal. OR I hope you have a nice time in Nepal.

a) I hope I’ll see you before you go.
b) I hope you enjoy the play.

However, we can sometimes express a wish for the future using WISH as a transitive verb with two objects; e.g.

a) May I wish you luck in writing your book.
b) He wished the newly-wed couple every possible happiness.

NOTE-VI: We do not use IF ONLY in question form; e.g.

Do you wish I lived in a city? (We can’t make this question by using IF ONLY.)

NOTE-VII: All the clauses above are THAT-CLAUSES. To write THAT after the verb WISH/IF ONLY  is optional.

 

Conditional clauses

We can also use WISH and IF ONLY to describe an imagined or impossible condition in the past or present followed by a main clause that describes the imagined result.

1. Second conditional structure for impossible desires in the present

a) If only I didn’t have a headache, I would/could go to the party tonight.

(= I do have a headache so the desired intention/ability in the present to go to the party is an imagined result.

b) If wish I didn’t have a headache, then I would/could go to the party tonight.

NOTE-I: With IF ONLY we can change the order of the conditional clause with no difference in meaning, for example; e.g.

If only I didn’t have a headache, I would/could go to the party tonight.
= I would/could go to the party tonight, if only I didn’t have a headache.

NOTE-II: We use THEN to show that the main clause is a direct result of the conditional clause. We can’t reverse the order of the clauses as we can with IF ONLY.

2. Third conditional structure 

a) If only I’d taken the train, I would have arrived at the destination by now.

(= I did not take the train and I have not arrived at the destination so this is an imagined result in the past.

b) I wish I’d taken the train; I would have arrived at the destination by now.

NOTE-I: With IF ONLY we can change the order of the conditional clause with no difference in meaning, for example; e.g.

If only I’d taken the train, I would have arrived at the destination by now.
= I would have arrived at the destination by now, if only I’d taken the train.

NOTE-II: We use a semicolon (;) to join the clauses in a single sentence. In this case we do not use THEN because the expectation/possibility about the time of arrival happens at the same time as taking the train. We can’t reverse the order of the clauses as we can with IF ONLY.

 

WISH

(without THAT-CLAUSE)

1. When we use WISH followed by TO-INFINITIVE, wish means the same as want. We do not normally use wish in the continuous form when we use it with a to-infinitive; e.g.

INCORRECT: I’m wishing to speak to Mr Gupta, please.
CORRECT: I wish to speak to Mr Gupta, please.

a) I wish to attend the meeting.
b) She wishes to attend the meeting.
c) They don’t wish to attend the meeting.
d) Does he wish to attend the meeting?

2. To express a desire for something in the future for someone else. In this use of WISH we use an object before the to-infinitive; e.g.

COMPARE:
a) I did not wish to know about Richa. (= I myself did not want to know about Richa.) — WISH without an object
b) I did not wish my family to know about Richa, so I told them nothing. (= I did not want my family knew about Richa.) — WISH with an object

NOTE-I: When we use an object after WISH, we must also use a verb in the to-infinitive form. Alternatively, we can say WANT or WOULD LIKE (if we want to be more polite); e.g.:

INCORRECT: We wish a table near the window, please.
CORRECT: We wish to have a table near the window, please.
= We want to have a table near the window, please.
= We would like to have a table near the window, please.

NOTE-II: We use the past simple of WISH to describe a desire that was expressed in the past; e.g.

a) I wished to attend the meeting.
b) She wished him the best of luck.

3. WISH = to express good wishes and to hope that good things will happen to people

For this purpose we use WISH with two objects, an indirect object + a direct object; e.g.

a) I wish you success in your new job.
b) I’ve got my driving test tomorrow. Wish me luck!
c) We wish you a long and happy life together.
d) I wish him the best of luck.

 

For more chapters/topics on English Grammar read the following book authored by me.

Link for buying the above book

CLICK HERE TO BUY

 

For English Practice Sets on various topics read the following book authored by me.

Link for buying the above book

CLICK HERE TO BUY
Previous post

TIER-I RESULT CHSL (10+2) EXAM-2020 -- DESCRIPTIVE PAPER ON 09.01.2022

Next post

TYPES OF CLAUSES

Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
2. Maha English Practice Sets (for Competitive Exams)

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *