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I wish I have been there for the baby kicking for the first time?

Could I change the sentence to

I wish I was there for the baby kicking for the first time?

What are the differences between the two sentences?

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As you mention tense, bear in mind that there are several "perfects" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_(grammar) – smirkingman Jan 18 '11 at 11:16
Thanks, I should learn the sense systematically – mko Jan 19 '11 at 3:32
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Both sentences given are slightly incorrect, I’m afraid. I think the form you want is probably

I wish I had been there for…

(In speech or informal writing, this would often be contracted: “I wish I’d been there for…”) Also good, as Robusto said, is

I wish I could have been there for…

although this only works if your absence was unintentional — if you knew when to expect it and just chose not to go, this version doesn’t apply.

The versions

I wish I were there for…

I wish I was there for…

are appropriate for an event happening right now, not for something that happened in the past. You might have a phone conversation: “The baby is kicking right now!” “Oh! I wish I were there for it!”

The form

*I wish I have been there for…

isn’t correct for anything (although it’s a fairly common error among non-native speakers, and people wouldn’t have difficulty understanding it).

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Hey, poor were asks why he wasn't given preference over his stepbrother... – Cerberus Jan 18 '11 at 3:32
I agonised over this; but a maxim I try to follow (with limited success) is “say one thing at a time”. A discussion of the subtleties of were vs. was here would get in the way of the more basic point; so I put were first and gave it an extra example, but left explicit mention of the issue for another day. Like yesterday, for instance :-P – PLL Jan 18 '11 at 3:44
PLL, you are the best. Now I know how to use each correctly. – mko Jan 19 '11 at 3:47

If you weren't there, you should say

I wish I could have been there the first time the baby kicked.


I wish I had been there the first time the baby kicked.

You're asking about the tenses, but notice that I changed the latter half of the sentence as well. To say "for the baby kicking for the first time" sounds kind of awkward.

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+1 — I think it’s the echoed for that makes the original version a bit clunky. It’s not wrong, but as you say, it’s certainly awkward. – PLL Jan 18 '11 at 3:15
@PLL: Yes, and I just thought of something else about it that bothers me. When you say "for the baby kicking" sounds like the kind of kicking you hear in "ass-kicking" ... so a "baby-kicking" sounds like something I wouldn't want to attend. – Robusto Jan 18 '11 at 4:10
Wow, it does sound ass-kicking! There are so many additional aspects that I could think of. – mko Jan 19 '11 at 3:40

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