AppStore

Download our 100% free app

Find everything you need to learn English

Practice with the exercises:
Exercise 1

1. Wish and if only

Both wish and if only are used to express the desire for a situation to change.
I wish I had wings to fly.
If only I had taken notes in class.

2. When do we use wish and if only?

I Wish and if only follow different structures depending on their use. Both are used interchangeably, although if only is more emphatic.

  • When we have a situation in the present or future and we would like it to be different. It is often used for a situation that is impossible or unlikely to change.
    I wish / if only + subject + verb in past / could
    I'm fed up with snow. I wish it were summer.
    In this example the reality in the present is that it’s winter and we would like it to be summer, which is impossible to happen.
    I wish I could come to the weeding, but I'll be away.
    In this example we are talking about a situation in the future that is unlikely to change. He will not be able to go to the wedding.
    When we use the verb to be in the past tense, we use were for all the forms, although in spoken English we tend to use was (I, he, she, it).
  • When we want to express regret about a situation that happened in the past and therefore we can no longer change.
    I wish / If only + subject + verb in past perfect
    I wish I hadn't booked this hotel.
    If only I had gone to bed earlier.
  • When we want someone or something to stop doing an action that is bothering us.
    I wish / If only + subject + would + verb in infinitive
    If only you would stop moaning.
    I wish the washing machine would stop making noise.

Remember!

Both I wish and if only are used to express the desire for a situation to change.
Uses Structure
I want a situation to be different, although it is impossible or unlikely to change. I wish / if only + subject + verb in past / could
I wish / if only I weren't so shy!
We regret about a situation that took place in the past. I wish / if only + subject + verb in past perfect
I wish / if only I handn't got on that ride. I'm terribly dizzy.
When we want someone to stop doing an action because it's annoying. I wish / if only + subject + would + verb in infinitive
I whish / if only you would stop singing the same song again and again!

 

Share: