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I generally find it hard to construct some sentences that start with "I wish, ..."

Example:

(Background:) Due to an incomplete technical documentation, we chose the wrong path, and ran into an unforeseen limitation. What's the correct way to state my frustration?

  • I wish, the documentation would warn about that limitation.
  • I wish, the documentation had warned about that limitation.
  • I wish, the documentation would have warned about that limitation.
  • I wish, the documentation warned about that limitation.
  • I would wish, that the documentation warns about that limitation.
  • ...
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

First off, you shouldn't have a comma after wish. In written English it's generally incorrect to add a comma before that or in a place where that has been omitted, as in the previous sentences.

Either of these is correct:

I wish the documentation warned about that limitation.

I wish the documentation had warned about that limitation.

In either case, you need a subjunctive form (which is almost always identical to the past form) in the subordinate clause. The main clause with wish should remain in the present tense — saying I would wish is unnecessary.

(The only time that the subjunctive is not the same as the simple past is when the subject is 1st- or 3rd-person singular:

I wish I were taller.

I wish it were true.

And even this is slipping away, as many people now say I wish I was taller.)

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Thanks for your great answer (also for the comma hint)! Is "would warn" and "would have warned" completely wrong, or is it acceptable for spoken English? –  Chris Lercher Apr 15 '11 at 12:25
    
It's not completely wrong, but it's mostly unnecessary. I would avoid using would for this construction in written English, though in spoken English it would probably pass without most people noticing. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 15 '11 at 12:32
1  
Whenever I encounter one of OP's would forms, I always assume it's a non-native speaker trying to replicate the verb inflections of their own language. As to whether including had makes any difference, I think an IT tutor complaining about different students repeatedly making mistakes because of poor documentation is more likely to omit had. Where only one (albeit possibly serious and / or extended) mistake occured, had seems more natural to me. –  FumbleFingers Apr 15 '11 at 13:40
    
"The only time that the subjunctive is not the same as the simple past is when the subject is I": I wish this were true. –  Cerberus Apr 15 '11 at 14:10
    
@Cerberus, touché. Updated. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 15 '11 at 14:40
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