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English Grammar


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


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • In a formal situation 'wish' can replace 'want'
    • I wish to see the director. I have a complaint to make.

   IF ONLY  

  • :‘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 only I'd studied harder at school." = "I wish I had studied harder."
    • "If only you didn't live so far away! = "I wish you didn't live so far away."


  • '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.
    • If I were you I'd do as your parents suggest."

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