Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I wish and if only - Lesson and exercises

Revise I wish and if only - Lesson and exercises

Look at these pairs of sentences:
1.If I spoke Spanish, I could work in Zaragoza. I wish I spoke Spanish.
2.If I didn't smoke, I'd be healthier. I wish I didn't smoke.
3.If I had worked hard, I would have passed my exams. I wish I'd worked hard.
4.If I hadn't said that to her, we mightn't have split up. I wish I hadn't said it.

Exercise 1 - Now answer these questions:

1.Do I speak Spanish?
Do I regret this?
2.Do I smoke?
Do I regret this?
3.Did I work hard?
Do I regret this?
4.Did I say that to her?
Do I regret this?
We use the 'I wish' construction to talk about regrets - when we would like something which isn't true to be true, or vice-versa - we would like something that is true, not to be true.
Note that 'if only' has the same meaning, but is stronger.
Click and Drop - Where you see this sign, mouse over for instructions

Exercise 2 - Complete these grammar rules and ideas

1. You regret (are sorry about) a present situation
I wish +
present simple - past simple - past perfect
This construction is similar to the if clause in a conditional
first - second - third
2. You regret (are sorry about) a past situation
I wish +
present simple - past simple - past perfect
This construction is similar to the if clause in a conditional
first - second - third

Exercise 3 - Make sentences starting with 'I wish'. For this exercise only use negative contractions. Don't use any punctuation. You may have to change some words.

1.We forgot to buy sugar
2.I'd like us to be on a beach somewhere
3.We can't afford a new washing machine
4.I called him a liar
5.I'd like to have a Mercedes
6.I didn't buy any coffee

I wish I was ... or I wish I were ...?

Traditionally when talking about unreal situations, English used a form called the Subjunctive. In Past simple this is identical to the Indicative (normal) tense forms except where the first and second persons singular of the verb to be are involved. And in Past perfect it is completely identical.
 To beOther verbs
Past simple    
he, she, itwaswereworkedworked
we, you, theywerewereworkedworked
Past continuous    
Iwas beingwere beingwas workingwere working
he, she, itwas beingwere being was workingwere working
we, you, theywere beingwere beingwere workingwere working
Past perfect    
All personshad beenhad beenhad workedhad worked
So EFL grammar books tend to just talk about 'the unreal past', and treat the first and second persons singular of the verb to be as a sort of exception. But in fact we are using subjunctive for all the unreal forms without realising it, because it's the same as the indicative.
Or rather, we were using it! It is becoming increasingly common for people to use 'was' rather than 'were' in these cases, so that it becomes even more logical to talk about this as the 'unreal past', rather than the subjunctive.
For many people (me included) 'were' sounds rather formal, but there are others who consider 'were' as being more correct. It is one of the great controversies in English, and is included in Wikipedia's list of 'Disputes in English Grammar'.
As far as EFL is concerned, both are correct, 'was' probably being used more in normal speech. Last year, for example, the Egyptian tourist authorities ran an advertising campaign in the UK; 'I wish I was in Egypt', as you can see here. But be aware that if you need to write something like a formal essay, 'were' will probably be expected.

I wish I could ... / If only I could ...

These constructions fall into the category of regrets about the present, could being the past of can, and we are regretting a present situation

Exercise 4 - Make sentences starting with 'I wish'. For this exercise don't use any contractions or punctuation.

1.I can't dance.
2.We can't afford to go skiing this year.
3.He can't help me.
4.They can't come for Christmas.

Can we have regrets about the future?

Look at this sentence:
  • If it was sunny tomorrow, we could have a picnic.

Exercise 5

YesNoDon't know
1.Will it be sunny tomorrow?
2.Are we talking about a fact we know to be true?
3.Are we talking about a hypothetical situation?
4.Can we regret this?
We cannot regret a hypothetical situation, only something which is or is not true. Therefore we cannot say:
  • I wish it was sunny tomorrow.
But we can regret things that we know are going to happen, or are pretty sure are going to happen. In this case we would use the past form of whatever form we'd use for the future.

Exercise 6 - Make sentences starting with 'I wish' + a past form of the form given. For this exercise only use contractions for negatives and don't use any punctuation. Use the words in brackets, where given. Keep it informal. In the last question, we know because we've heard the weather forecast.

1.We're working late next week
2.They're going away tomorrow
3.The train leaves very early in the morning (so early)
4.We have to get up at the crack of dawn
5.It's going to rain tomorrow

Wishes about something certain in the future

Note 1 - Use I wish + the past form of the form we usually use for future certainties - going to, present continuous or have to
Note 2 - We only use I wish + past simple where we would have used present simple for the normal future, in other words for scheduled or timetabled events
Note 3 - We don't use I wish + would to speak about regrets about the future. This is partly because we don't normally use will to talk about certainty in the future. And partly because I wish + would has a different meaning, which we shall see in the next section.

Wishes about something hypothetical in the future

When we want something hypothetical to happen in the future, we use 'I hope' + a normal tense rather than 'I wish' + past tense
  • I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow.
  • I hope it rains coffee in the fields. (Juan Luis Guerra - Ojalá que llueva café)
  • I hope I don't have to work at the weekend.

Exercise 7 - Hypothetical or real? Choose the correct option.

1. I go to that concert tomorrow, but it's sold out.
wish we could - hope we can
2. I still get tickets for that concert tomorrow.
hope we can - wish we could
3. I as rude to me this time as he was the last time we met.
wish he wasn't - hope he isn't
4. I so rude to me every time we meet.
hope he isn't - wish he wasn't
5. I stop making that noise. It's really annoying.
wish you would - hope you will
6. I making that noise soon. It's getting on my nerves.
hope she stops - wish she stopped
7. I late this time. We've quite a long way to go.
wish she wasn't - hope she isn't
8. I always so late.
hope she isn't - wish she wasn't
9. I lying on a beach somewhere this time next week.
hope we will be - wish we were
10. I lying on a beach somewhere right now.
wish we were - hope we will be

I wish you wouldn't do that!

Look at these sentences
1.I wish she wouldn't smoke the whole time.
2.I wish he'd help around the house more.
3.I wish it would stop raining.
4.I wish the car would start in the morning.

Exercise 8 - Now answer these questions:

1.Does she smoke the whole time?
Does this annoy me?
2.Does he help around the house much?
Would I like him to help more?
3.Is it raining?
Would I like it to stop?
4.Does the car start in the morning?
Does this annoy me?
We use I wish / If only + would when we want someone to behave differently from how they normally behave, or to change their habits. We can also use it with certain things, such as machines and the weather.

Exercise 9 - Make sentences starting with 'I wish' + 'would'. For this exercise only use contractions for negatives and don't use any punctuation. Use the words in brackets, where given.

1.He never irons his own shirt.
2.She takes ages in the bathroom. (such ages)
3.The dog doesn't do what it's told.
4.He's always leaving his things everywhere.
5.She's taking a long time. (hurry up)
6.The light's flickering (stop)

I do wish you'd do something about it!

As well as using 'if only', we can emphasise 'I wish' by adding 'do', which we stress:
  • I do wish I was rich.
  • I do wish I hadn't said that.
  • I do wish you would shut up once in a while.
Some people (especially young people) also use 'so' to emphasise
  • I so wish I hadn't said that.
We can also ask other people about their regrets and wishes, often with a negative.
  • Don't you wish you could just get away from it all sometimes?
  • Do you sometimes wish you had spent more time working and less time partying when you were at university? I certainly do!
  • Look at that car! Don't you just wish you had a car like that?
  • Don't you wish people wouldn't be so rude?
  • Oh I do wish the sun would come out, don't you?

To sum up

We use I wish / If only in 3 ways:
  1. With a past form (usually but not always past simple) to talk about regrets about the present
  2. With past-perfect to talk about regrets about the past
  3. With would when you want somebody (or a machine or the weather etc) to behave in a different way, usually because their behaviour annoys you to some extent.

Bringing it all together

Exercise 10 - Choose the correct answer.

1. I wish I beer so much. But I do.
didn't like - hadn't liked - wouldn't like
2. They wish they abroad instead of staying at home.
were going - would go
3. If only she away my winning lottery ticket.
didn't throw - hadn't thrown
4. I wish she sometimes before she borrowed my things.
had asked - would ask
5. He wishes he less nervous at the interview yesterday.
was - had been - would be
6. I do wish they something about this road. It's really dangerous.
did - would do
7. He wishes he so fast when the police saw him.
wasn't driving - hadn't been driving - wouldn't drive
8. She wishes she so rude to her mother yesterday.
wasn't - hadn't been - wouldn't have been
9. If only you leaving tomorrow.
weren't - wouldn't be
10. I do wish it Monday tomorrow.
wasn't - wouldn't be
11. I it won't rain tomorrow.
hope - wish
12. I the weather was going to be better tomorrow. But the forecast is pretty bad.
hope - wish

Related posts

Unreal Past - I'd rather etc,suppose and imagine, as if and as though, it's time etc

Songs with I wish / If only

  • Kate Nash - Nicest thing - Google
    • I wish my smile was your favourite kind of smile
    • I wish the way that I dressed was your favourite kind of style
    • I wish you couldn't figure me out
  • K.T.Tunstall - If only - Google
    • If only you could see me now
    • If only you could hear me out
    • If only it was only me now.
  • Boxcar Racers - I feel so - Google
    • I wish I was brave
    • I wish I was stronger
    • I wish I could feel no pain
  • Pearl Jam - Wishlist - Google
    • I wish I was an alien at home behind the sun
    • I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on
    • I wish I was the pedal brake that you depended on
  • Niall Boyle - I Wish You Wouldn't Do That - Google
  • Juan Luis Guerra - Ojalá que llueva café - YouTube



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