I can say “I wish prices would go down”, but what about similar sentences that have an inanimate subject after 'wish'?

For example, “I wish magazines and newspapers would contain fewer ads.” Can one use would freely in them?

closed as off-topic by ScotM, anongoodnurse, Centaurus, Ellie Kesselman, FumbleFingers Apr 20 '15 at 17:55

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    But surely "prices" is inanimate? The real problem is using less instead of fewer becuase ad is a count noun. Use less with a mass noun like advertising. – Andrew Leach Oct 5 '13 at 7:54
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    "Less ads" is perfectly grammatical. Let's not raise that subject yet again. It has been discussed to death. – RegDwigнt Oct 5 '13 at 10:24

The grammar of wishing is complex, but has nothing to do with whether the subject of the dependent clause is animate or not. Instead, what you need to know is if the verb in that clause is stative or dynamic.

For example, like is a stative verb. It is normal to use the past tense of a stative verb after wish to express regret that something is not the case:

I wish she liked me. / I wish she didn't like me.

Contain is also a stative verb. So the normal use would be:

I wish magazines and newspapers contained fewer ads.

In informal use, however, it is not uncommon to encounter would + infinitive instead of the past tense.

I wish she would like me.

I wish magazines and newspapers would contain fewer ads.

With dynamic verbs, conversely, the wish is generally expressed with would + infinitive:

I wish you would stop smoking.

I wish prices would go down.

?I wish prices went down.

The latter sentence is ungrammatical as the expression of single wish for the future:

*I wish prices went down; then I could afford a new iPad.

But it is acceptable as a general regret about price fluctuations:

I wish prices went down as often as they go up.

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