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How To Express Wishes and Regrets: I Wish/ If Only

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We use I wish … and If only … when we regret something or when we would like something to be different than the way it is.

How to Use I Wish and If Only

I Wish/ If Only + Past Simple

We would like a present situation to be different


I wish I had a bigger car (because my car is too small).
If only it was the summer holidays (but it isn’t – I’m still at school).

I Wish/ If Only + Would

We want something to happen


I wish my car would start (I can’t make it start and I want it to start).

If only the lesson would end (I want it to end).

We want someone to start doing something they do not do

If only you’d listen to me!

We want someone to stop doing something which annoys us

I wish you wouldn’t borrow my clothes!

If only my mum wouldn’t phone me every five minutes!

I Wish/ If Only + Past Perfect

Talk about things which we are unhappy about which happened in the past

He wishes he had studied harder when he was at school. (He didn’t study hard enough – perhaps if he had studied harder he would have gone to university.)

If only they hadn’t scored that goal! (They scored a goal and as a result they probably won’t win

the match).

NoteIf only means I wish. When talking about other people we use he wishes, they wish, etc. We use if only when we feel something very strongly. Otherwise we use I wish.

I Wish and If Only | Image

I Wish and If Only


Saturday 21st of August 2021

very useful


Monday 28th of June 2021

Thanks! I think this infographic shows very clearly what it is about and can be of great help for English learners.