Although 'hope' and 'wish' have many different uses, I've seen the basic difference often summarized as: 'wish' is for imaginary, unlikely or impossible things, whereas 'hope' is for more likely or realistic things.

For example:

I wish I was a billionaire (unlikely)

I hope you get well soon (likely)

This distinction seems logical, but then I don't understand the following:

I hope you win the lottery tonight (unlikely)

I hope you rot in hell! (impossible ... I hope!)

Both scenarios seem highly unlikely, yet the grammar is acceptable.

Is there are a better distinction between 'hope' and 'wish' in this kind situation?

Many thanks in advance.


A wish can be an idle expression of a desire that things could be different than they actually are at the current time - in other words, a counterfactual:
- "I wish I were a millionaire!"
- "I wish I hadn't drunk those last five beers."
- "I wish Grandma were still alive."

A wish can also be a type of prayer, sometimes barely religious and hardly conscious of being a prayer; this type of prayer is generally simply for the health or happiness of another:
- "We wish you a merry Christmas."
- "During his illness, his room was constantly full of well-wishers."

It can also be a more explicit form of what a Christian would call "pagan" and others would call "superstitious" prayer; the object of this type of wish is usually kept secret for magical reasons:
- tossing a coin in a well
- breaking a wishbone

In fairy tales, one may meet magical beings (djinni, leprechauns, talking goldfish) and be granted wishes; these are specific requests, granted immediately, and often with cruel irony.

Hope, on the other hand, deals with what is possible - now or in the future - without making a counterfactual change:
- "I hope you feel better soon."
- "I hope we get there in time."
Since this type of hope is essentially passive, it is often mocked: "Hope in one hand, and $#*& in the other - see which one fills up first!"

Hope can also deal with events and outcomes that are unknown to the speaker, and over which s/he has no control:
- "I hope Jane got home safely."
- "I hope Grandpa's in a better place now."

Hope can also be negative; the desire expressed does not have to be likely or even possible:
- "I hope you die in a fire."
- "I hope you rot in Hell."

Hope is also the belief - sometimes against all evidence - that things will be better in the future than they are now:
- "I live in hope that I'll find my pet rock again someday."
- "Hope dies last."
Despair is the absence or abandonment of this type of hope.


Hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or in the world at large.

Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Hope is the act of looking forward to something with desire and reasonable confidence or "feeling that something desired may happen".

Other definitions include: "to cherish a desire with anticipation"; "to desire with expectation of obtainment"; or "to expect with confidence".

Despair is often regarded as the opposite of hope.

Hope is one of the commonly used expressions of anger!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy