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How to Use Wish and if only in English


Using Wish and If Only

When we want to express what we want, i.e., expressing a wish, we either use the word wish or if only to express that wish. However, the expression if only is an emphatic way to say I wish. We use 'if only' when we feel or really wish something very strongly. Use 'were' instead of was after wish or if only. 
There are three structures, and all the structures express that we are unhappy about the present situation. In this case, we have to go one tense back. If the real situation is the present, we need to use the simple past tense after wish/if only, and if the real situation is the past, then we need to use the past perfect tense after wish/if only.  
  1. Wish/If only + Past Simple /Past Continuous
  2. Wish/If only + Past Perfect Tense
  3. Wish/If only + Would/Could


1- To express regret in the present (unreal present) about something that isn't as we would like it, we use past simple or past continuous tense with 'wish or if only'. In this case, the simple past tense emphasizes that we are talking about an unreal past situation.

Form: Wish/if only + Past Simple Tense/Past Continuous Tense
Wish/If only Examples 
  • He hates his job. He wishes he worked in a bank. (The simple past tense expresses regret or wishes in the present)
  • If only she didn't watch movies. (= I/We wish she didn't watch movies, or I am sorry he watches movies.)
  • I wish my home didn't far away from school.
  • I wish/if only I had that car.
  • I wish she were with us now.
  • I wish I played the guitar. (I wish this, but I can't)
  • She wishes that she were rich.
  • I wish he were studying with me.
  • I wish it were possible. Or I wish it was possible.
  • Does she ever wish she could fly?
  • It's very foggy in this city. I wish there weren't so much fog.

But placing present tense/will after if only expresses hope. For example

  • If only they come early. (I hope they will come early.)
  • If only she will help me. (I hope she will help me.)
  • If only he will listen to his parents. (I hope he will be willing to listen to his parents.)

2- To express regret in the past, we use past perfect tense with 'wish' or if only. This form expresses regret about something that happened or didn't happen in the past.  
Form: Wish/if only + Past Perfect Tense
Examples
  • I wish/if only I had met that guy before.
  • I wish I had come earlier to the stadium yesterday. (But I didn't come earlier)
  • I wish/if only I hadn't lived with them.
  • I wish the minister had shut up for a moment and let President speak.
  • My phone is useless. I wish I had bought a new one.
  • There was a film show last week. If only I had watched it.

3- Wish/If only + Would/Wouldn't
To talk about something that we would like to change in the present or when we are unhappy about someone else actions. We use wish/if only + would. This structure only talks about a hypothetical change in general behavior that we can't change.

Examples
  • He wished his children would study harder.
  • I wish/if only it would rain.
  • If only you would put your shoes outside the room.
  • I wish she wouldn't late for work every day.
  • If only my roommate wouldn't watch a movie late at night. 
  • I wish that boy wouldn't be so ugly.
  • I wish my dad would visit my school next week.
  • If only our team wouldn't lose the match so easily.

The pronouns I and We take could instead of would after wish/if only. The form wish/if only + could express a regret that we can't do something in the present.

Form: Wish/if only + Could
Examples
  • If only I could listen to what she is saying, I'm sure I could learn it.
  • I could bake a cake if only I had remembered the recipe.
  • We wish we could meet again. (not we wish we would)
  • I wish my friends could play together.
  • I hear many people were attend the convocation. I wish I could have gone. (A regret that I couldn't attend the convocation in the past)
  •  If only I could go to London last winter.


It is more formal to use the verb were instead of was with the first- and third-person singular pronoun, for example
  • I wish I were rich. (formal)
  • I wish I was rich. (Everyday) 


How to Express Future Hopes Using "Wish"


We sometimes use wish to express future hopes. We either use would or could with wish to express future hopes. Using wish with would express a desire or hope for another person to do something. While using wish with could express a desire that we want to do ourselves.

Examples
  • I wish my father could give me more money. (Not my father would)
  • I wish I could ride a bike.
  • I wish I could understand her writing.
  • Ali wishes he could play the piano.
  • She wishes she couldn't take admission in biology.
  • He wishes his boss would increase his salary. (Would expresses hopes for someone else)
  • My brother is always late for work. I wish he would go to work on time.
  • She wishes she would find another apartment.
  • They wish they would win the final match.
  • I wish the government wouldn't impose so many taxes on electricity.
  • She wishes her brother wouldn't ride the bike so fast.
  • Ahmad wishes his brother wouldn't waste his time. 

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