Sunday, February 1, 2015

I wish / If only

We use wish and if only to express how we would like things to be different if we had the power to change them. They both have the same meaning, but if only is more emphatic.
They can be followed by another clause using the following tenses:
  • Past simple. It's used to express things you would like to be different in the present, but which you deem impossible or unlikely: I wish I were taller. As in conditional sentences, we use the subjunctive (were) for all the grammatical persons. However, was is also possible in a less formal context: I wish he was my friend.
I wish I were taller

  • Past perfect. It's used to express regret or criticism about things that happened or didn't happen in the past. I wish I had studied harder for the exam. (Now it's too late. I can only regret I didn't study more). I wish you had told me the truth.

  • Would + infinitive. It's used to:
    •  Complain about things that you find annoying. I wish you would stop making so much noise. If only this wind would stop. In these sentences, the subject of the subordinate clause must be different from that of the main clause. 
    •  Express wishes for the future when we think the action will probably not happen  (could can be used instead of would) I wish I could go on holday with you, (but I know I can't). If there is a stronger possibility that the action will happen, we use hope: I hope I can go on holiday with you. (I don't know if I can or not). 
          We can find another example of wish + would in this song by Phil Collins:

There are many songs in which you can find examples of  wish or if only. Here are a few:

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