Wish & If Only

By Rob Lane

In an earlier post, we looked at the second conditional and saw that it is formed by using past simple in the conditional clause. This conditional is used for hypothetical ideas in present or future. In a number of structures in English, the past simple is used when we speak about hypothesis in present or future. The verb wish requires similar construction. If only can be used with the same structures. In this post, I will set out three commonly used structures with the verb wish and if only.


Present wish about a present situation.

Subject + wish + past simple

Winnie wishes she was taller.


Present wish about a past situation.

Subject + wish + past perfect

Gene wishes she had not spent all her money last weekend.


Wishes about things that annoy of frustrate you.

Subject + wish + someone + would + verb*

Carlos wishes Jose would stop playing his music so late at night.


Note: In each of these structures, if only can be used instead of subject + wish to produce a similar meaning.

If only I didn’t have so much work, I could go out this even.

I’m sorry, I forgot. If only Sean had reminded me.


You should:

Create some practice sentences using the structures above.

Write dialogues including these structures along with second and third conditionals.