Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

We often use "wish + that clause" to express a past/present counterfactual statement or a future unlikely event (i.e. remote possibility):

I wish I hadn't quit my job. (But I quit my job.)

I wish I had two million dollars. (But I don't.)

I wish I wouldn't have to work tomorrow. (But I have to. I will be working tomorrow.)

My question is, is it possible to use wish + that clause to express open possibilities for the future?

Note: Open possibility/condition means the fulfillment of the event is not determined but there is a chance of it happening, as opposed to remote possibility/condition, where the speaker knows that the chance of occurrence is remote/unlikely.

For example:

(?) I wish the weather would be nice this weekend. [future time reference]

(Intended gloss: I really don't know what the weather will be like this weekend, and I haven't checked the weather forecast, but I hope it will be nice.)

I tried to find the answer from the web and in a few grammar books. The only answers I got so far are negative. But the sentence above, about the weather, seems rather natural to me. I even found this example sentence from a grammar book, but the book doesn't say whether it carries the connotation of unlikelihood:

I wish the weather would get better. I am tired of being inside all the time.

To me, that sentence simply expresses the hope that the weather will clear up, i.e. an open possibility.

share|improve this question
2  
I'd phrase "I hope the weather will be nice this weekend" to express what you want to say. However, your sentence have the connotation of unlikelihood, i.e. the current weather isn't that good and you do not really believe in brighter conditions. –  Em1 Jul 30 '12 at 10:12
1  
Yes, 'hope' sounds more appropriate than 'wish' in such a statement –  asymptotically Jul 30 '12 at 10:21
    
I don’t clearly understand what you mean “open possibilities”. The verb wish in English does seem to demand a fancier tense/mood/aspect in the second clause than the verb hope does, something in the irrealis band. “I wish the weather were nicer. I wish you would stop. I wish she were done.” vs “I hope the weather is nicer. I hope the weather will be nicer. I hope you will stop. I hope she is done.” –  tchrist Jul 30 '12 at 12:43
    
I think Cool Elf's answer below is very clear and to the point. However, one of the examples you make is totally wrong in the context you indicate; in fact the sentence I wish I hadn't quit my job refers to the past (something you did and now regret doing) and consequently it should be removed from your post. –  Paola Jul 30 '12 at 13:47
1  
@langtechie ♬ I wish I were an Oscar-Meyer weiner notI wish I ∗would be an Oscar-Meyer weiner. But I wish you would be quiet! is fine. Hm... –  tchrist Jul 30 '12 at 19:26
show 8 more comments

3 Answers

"Wish" is used to express regret and that something isn't as you would like it to be.

Ex. I wish I knew her number. (= I don't)

Ex. I wish I didn't have to go to school. (= I do)

Even the example that you found in the book:

I wish the weather would be nice this weekend. 

implies that the speaker would like it to be, but the speaker doesn't expect this to happen.

Especially,

I wish the weather would get better. I'm tired of being inside all the time.

tells us that the speaker wants something to change, but it is unlikely to happen.


There is one instance though when the use of "wish" can mean "open possibility," to borrow the OP's words.

wish + somebody + something

Ex. I wish you luck.

Ex. I wish you success.

But you cannot wish that something happens. You still need to use "hope":

Ex. I hope you get a high score.

share|improve this answer
    
On consideration, I think that even the 'wish you luck' is not an open possibility. I wish you a happy birthday is not exactly the same meaning as I hope you have a happy birthday; it's more of a performative utterance. But +1 anyway for a clear analysis. –  TimLymington Jul 30 '12 at 18:42
    
Thanks for clarifying that, Tim :-) –  Cool Elf Jul 31 '12 at 3:20
    
@CoolElf Thanks for this answer. I have also just read the section on wish from English Grammar in Use by Murphy. It'll be a book I'll come back to often for basic questions like this. –  langtechie Jul 31 '12 at 8:14
    
No problem. English Grammar in Use is highly recommended –  Cool Elf Jul 31 '12 at 13:13
add comment

I don't think you can use it this way, and I'm not too happy about your examples either. Wish, as I see it used, is never future, always counterfactual; that is, there is always a tacit '...but unfortunately it's not so'. I wish I hadn't quit my job means that you did quit it, and now regret the decision. I wish I didn't have to work tomorrow means that you do have to work (and now regret not quitting your job). I wish the weather would get better implies that not only has it not done so yet, but there are no signs of improvement, unlike I hope it clears up which has no implication either way.

share|improve this answer
1  
Thanks. But I do believe that I wish the whether would get better does refer to future time, hence the use of would (counterpart of "open possibility" will). Another way of expressing future remote condition with wish: He is going on a trip soon. I wish I was/were going too. (But I am not going.) –  langtechie Jul 31 '12 at 8:22
add comment

The word wish comes with the heavy baggage of unlikelihood. That said, it seems to me that the OP is restricting any open possibilities in his/her examples through the use of had and would, two verbs that impart an air of impossibility or uncertainty to the sentence. I think that a sense of "open possibilities in the future" requires the clear use of will:

I wish that you will all do well in your exam tomorrow and make me proud!

Or, with the OP's own example:

I wish that I will not have to work tomorrow.

I expect that one of the grammarians here will be able to better explain the weird past-in-the-future aspect of would as a modal auxiliary verb.

share|improve this answer
2  
I actually don’t find those examples grammatical. –  tchrist Jul 30 '12 at 13:42
    
@tchrist ... because you would use hope in both of those cases? –  coleopterist Jul 30 '12 at 13:43
2  
Sorry, the edit doesn't help. Wish + will is unidiomatic/objectionable, whatever goes with it. –  TimLymington Jul 30 '12 at 13:55
    
No, because of what Tim said. –  tchrist Jul 30 '12 at 14:00
    
@coleopterist Thanks for this answer. Indeed, as others have pointed out, will (a modal verb usually used for open possibilities) cannot be used in the wish + that clause construction, which always expresses unlikelihood. –  langtechie Jul 31 '12 at 8:26
show 2 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.