Is this sentence correct?

I wish I would wake up early

Some grammar rules say that would shouldn't be used when its subject is the same as wish subject. It ‘would be illogical’, the rule says.

I came across this sentence which seems to break the rule. What is the reason?

  • Depends. If you wish you yourself were able to wake up every day at a specific time, then use could. If you have some plans and you hope you will wake up in time, use would – mplungjan Sep 24 '13 at 11:27
  • So, does 'wish' equal 'hope' and can be used to express plans? – niab Sep 24 '13 at 11:39
  • 3
    Where are these grammar rules from? "Some grammar rules" is very unspecific, yet at the same time you seem to be actually quoting them, so please go ahead and straight out attribute them. Also, do state the supposedly grammatical alternative to this sentence, according to the rules in question. Thanks. – RegDwigнt Sep 24 '13 at 13:06

I disagree that "?I wish I would wake up early" is a good English sentence.

Here's what's wrong with it. Both wish and would let you describe an event that isn't real. You simply don't need "would" if you say "I wish I woke up early." A principle of pragmatics (the study of how we use context to communicate) is that we don't say things we don't need to say. So when you say "I wish I would wake up early" the listener immediately wonders why you needed the extra word. For me at least, it leads to a brief speculation that for some reason the speaker is not in control--trapped in a dream or something.


We can use wish + subject + past tense to express regret that a present situation is not how we want it:

I wish I had a car. = I don't have a car.

I wish I knew the answer. = I don't know the answer.

I wish I woke up early. = I don't wake up early.

We use wish + subject + would to express regret about an action that a third party is unwilling to perform.

I wish she would go home now. = I am sorry that she isn't willing to go home.

I wish he would get a haircut. = I am sorry that he refuses to get a haircut.

It would be strange to say:

I wish I would go home now


I wish I would get a haircut.

because I have the power to perform those actions if I want. This is why Thomson and Martinet in Practical English Grammar (p262) state:

The subject of wish cannot be the same as the subject of would as this would be illogical. We cannot therefore have I wish + I would.

The example sentence is somewhat different because the speaker is not expressing regret over a unwillingness to wake up early but over an inability to do so. In this case, I wish I would wake up early seems acceptable to me. But I prefer:

I wish I woke up early


I wish I could wake up early.

  • Thank you for your answer.You spoke for me. Actually, the book you quoted is my reference, but the topic is on (p 202), second edition.Still, what makes you say,'In this case, I wish I would wake up early seems acceptable to me. But I prefer:'?Is it a matter of opinion, or does it have a reference? If interpretation is allowed loosely,then the first rule is useless. – niab Sep 24 '13 at 19:24
  • Thomson and Martinet's (fourth edition) examples in the section you refer to concern willingness, but your example sentence is about ability. So the rule does not necessarily apply. I'd be interested in the opinion of other site regulars as to the acceptability of your sentence. – Shoe Sep 24 '13 at 19:54
  • @Shoe How about I wish I would win the lottery? Where I wish I could win the lottery implies a possibility of winning the lottery (ie if you buy the right number of tickets or the right ticket you could win) but the would in I wish I would win the lottery. implies the will to win the lottery despite your failing attempts. A more verbose I wish I would win the [next] lottery. – 3kstc Jun 13 at 1:16

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