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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


Explanation on the meaning and use of 'wish' and 'if'.


  • To express a regret about the present, we use wish + the past simple :
    • I don't play the piano.  I wish I played the piano.
    • Pedro doesn't speak English.  Pedro wishes he spoke English.
    • Hugo doesn't have a car. He wishes he had a car.
  • When 'wish' if followed by the verb 'to be',  'were'  is used instead of 'was':
    • I don't have a lot of money.  I wish I were (not was) rich. 
    • I'm not very tall. I wish I were taller.
    • I'm not very strong. I wish I were stronger.
  • To express a regret about the past, we use wish + the past perfect :
    • Julie lost her umbrella yesterday.  Julie wishes she hadn't lost her umbrella.
    • Alex didn't revise his grammar.  Alex wishes he had revised his grammar.
    • The hotel was full. Tom wished he had booked a room.
  • To express a desire to change something, we use wish + would or could :
    • The children are making a lot of noise. I wish they would stop making noise.
    • The weather is awful.  I wish the weather would improve.
    • The cinema is old-fashioned. I wish the owners would renovate it.
    • My job is totally boring. I wish I could find a better one.
    • My colleague is in trouble. I wish I could help him/her.
NOTE‘I wish’ can be replaced with ‘if only’ which carries more emphasis.
◊  “If only you had told me in time!’ = “I wish you had told me in time.”


  • 'If' is used in conditional structures:
    • If I worked in Paris, my French would improve.

  • After if, we often use were instead of was, especially in a formal style where it is considered more correct.
    • If I were rich, I would travel all over the world.
    • If  he were a better manager, the company would be more successful.

  • We use the structure "if I were you " + would to give advice.
    • If I were you I would take English lessons.

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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