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How to Express Wishes in the Past, Present and Future

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Expressing wishes is a crucial aspect of communication, as it helps convey our desires and hopes to others. Whether it’s wishing for something in the past, present, or future, it’s important to use the correct expressions to effectively communicate our wishes.

In this article, we will explore how to express wishes in the past, present, and future using different expressions and examples. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of choosing the right expression for your wish and the impact it has on effective communication. So, whether you’re a native English speaker or just learning the language, this article will provide a valuable guide to expressing your wishes effectively.

How to Express Wishes in English

There are three distinct types of I wish/ If only sentences:

  • Wish about the present.
  • Wish about the past.
  • Wish about the future.

Expressing Wishes in the Present

In English, wishes in the present tense can be expressed using phrases such as “I wish”, “I hope”, “I want”, “I’d like”. Examples:
  • I wish I had more free time.
  • I hope today is a good day.
  • I want a cup of coffee.
  • I’d like to travel the world.

How to Express Wishes about the present

Expressing Wishes in the Past

Expressing wishes in the past can be done using the verb “wished.” When expressing a past wish, it is important to use the past tense form of “wished.” This verb is often followed by a past tense verb to describe the desired outcome. For example, “I wished I had gone to the concert last night.” “Wished” can also be used to express regret about a past situation, such as “I wished I hadn’t missed the opportunity to meet her.”

It’s also important to note that when expressing past wishes, the desired outcome often cannot be changed, as it has already happened. For example, “I wished I had studied harder for the exam, but now it’s too late.” Using “wished” in the past tense effectively conveys a sense of longing or regret for a past situation. Whether expressing a past wish or regret, using “wished” is an effective way to communicate your desires and feelings about a past situation.


  • I wish I had more free time yesterday.
  • I wish I could have gone to the concert.
  • I wished I knew what to do.
  • If only I had more money last year.
  • I wish I had studied harder for the exam.
  • I wish I could have seen that movie.
  • I wished I had taken a different route.
  • If only I had listened to my parents.

How to express wishes in English – Picture 1

Wishes about the Past

How to express wishes in English – Picture 2

Wishes about the present, Past

Wishes about the Future

In English, wishes in the future tense can be expressed using phrases such as “I hope”, “I wish”, “I’d like to”. Examples:

  • I hope tomorrow will be sunny.
  • I wish I will have enough money to buy a house.
  • I’d like to travel to Europe next year.
  • I wish I will be happy in the future.
  • I hope I will find a good job soon.
  • I wish I will see the world.
  • I’d like to retire in a warm place.
  • I wish I will live a long and healthy life.
Wishes about the Future
Wishes about the Future

Wish vs. If only

“I wish” and “if only” are two expressions used to express regret or a desire for something to be different in the present or future.

“I wish” is used to express a desire for a present or future situation to be different. For example: “I wish I had more free time.”

“If only” is used to express regret or a desire for something that has already happened to have been different. For example: “If only I had studied harder, I would have gotten a better grade.”

The main difference between “I wish” and “if only” is the time frame they refer to. “I wish” refers to present or future situations, while “if only” refers to past situations.

Wish vs. If only


Thursday 12th of December 2019

Thanks a lot


Saturday 7th of December 2019

Join the discussion...Wow!!thanks for the elaboration


Wednesday 27th of November 2019

It's really nice and helpful, but I'd have gone for "I wish I WERE at the beach." instead of WAS. How do you feel about the subjunctive alternative? Thank you for your possible reply


Thursday 10th of October 2019

I want to try good communication skills, so from where am I start, Now my communication is average. Pls suggest me


Monday 23rd of September 2019

Awesome tutor Thanks