2

It's an exercise, imagine you're in the situation, and write a sentence with "I wish".
the situation is:

"You've painted the gate red. Now you think that it doesn't look very nice."

Because it's talking about past( the gate is already painted), my answer was

I wish I hadn't had painted the gate red.

Which is wrong, because the second "had" is unnecessary.
Could anyone please tell me why? Thank you.

  • 1
    Because you didn't have it painted, rather you have painted it (yourself). – Kris May 14 '14 at 4:59
  • What Kris is getting at is that to have <an object> painted means to get somebody to paint <the object>. – Erik Kowal May 14 '14 at 5:07
  • Even with the causative have construction, that sentence would be ungrammatical; it should be I wish I hadn't had the gate painted red, with the gate in a different position. Anyway, that's not what the OP meant. – John Lawler May 14 '14 at 13:13
  • The tenses in your headline are a bit confusing. What you need is past perfect subjunctive. – rogermue Oct 20 '14 at 19:57
  • Related – tchrist Jul 22 at 23:55
2

Because it's talking about past (the gate is already painted), my answer was:

  • I wish I hadn't had painted the gate red.

Which is wrong, because the second "had" is unnecessary.

Could anyone please tell me why?

Sure. Let's look at a somewhat similar version where modal remoteness is not involved, such as:

  • 1.) I hope Tom painted the gate red (yesterday).

I used the verb "hope" because it doesn't involve modal remoteness. And so, the preterite "painted" is being used for past time usage.

Now, let's assume that Tom didn't do that painting, and you know that, but you wish that he had, and so, let's now put in that "wish" verb:

  • 2.) I wish Tom had painted the gate red (yesterday).

The use of "wish" requires the use of a past-tense to show that modal remoteness, and that is why version #2 has a preterite perfect ("had painted") now instead of only a preterite ("painted") that is in version #1.

The preterite perfect ("had painted") has two past-tenses in it: the preterite "had", and the perfect construction "have/has/had painted". One past tense is used to put the situation of the painting into the past time sphere, and one past tense is used for modal remoteness (which happens to be required by the "wish" verb).

Now, keeping in mind version #2, let's now negate it--that is, Tom did that painting yesterday but now you wish that he hadn't done that:

  • 3.) I wish Tom hadn't painted the gate red (yesterday).

So, now, seeing how version #3 is structured, we can copy that structure to give you what you wanted for your original example:

  • 4.) I wish I hadn't painted the gate red (yesterday).

Now, compare version #4 to your candidate version in your OP. Your candidate version has an extra "had" in it.

I hope everything is now as clear as mud. :)

  • Haha I think only those who are already very good at both English and English grammar will understand. Also, I'm a descriptivist and so I'm not sure that the rules governing modal verbs hold true anymore. For example we can now say "I wish he came earlier" although your rule implies that we must say "I wish he had come earlier". – user21820 May 14 '14 at 6:04
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    Wow, thanks for such detailed answer. In the 2.) part, you said about the two past-tenses is the reason I was confusing, I think.I thought the past-tense which is needed by "wish" should be isolated from perfect construction... – Liam May 14 '14 at 6:59
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    @Liam: the past tense isn't isolated; it's right there on the perfect auxiliary have. That's what the auxiliary verbs are mostly for -- to carry a tense suffix. That's why infinitives and gerunds, which are tenseless, have so few auxiliaries. – John Lawler May 14 '14 at 13:16
1

The first option is to stick with the original form of the verb (to paint):

(I had painted the gate red.)

I wish I had not painted the gate red. [See how the "not" simply negates the verb?]

I wish I hadn't painted the gate red. [This is just an equivalent contracted form.]


The second more complicated option is to use a different verb (to have X painted):

(I had had the gate painted red.) [Note that the past perfect of "have" is "had had".]

I wish I had not had the gate painted red. [It's a little clumsy, but correct.]

I wish I hadn't had the gate painted red. [And this is the shortened form.]


As you can tell, the first option is the one to speak when aiming for clarity. Sometimes people also use the simple past tense ("I wish I did not paint the gate red.") but it is a little odd-sounding to some ears.

  • Thanks! It's a little embarrassed that I actually thought the original tense should be somehow kept after the wish part. Because when changing this sentence "Margaret wasn't injured in the crash because she was wearing a seat belt" into subjunctive-mood is "If Margaret hadn't been wearing a seat belt she would ....". But I realised the verb is "was" not "wearing", I can understand it now (am I right?). After your answers I think understand this kind of sentences more clearly, thank you. – Liam May 14 '14 at 6:48
  • 1
    Indeed, what is "was" in the indicative statement would become "would have been" in the subjunctive statement. The "would" is always necessary in such a hypothetical statement, and is followed by either a simple present ("be") or a simple perfect bare infinitive ("have been"). The present infinitive would be used in situations in the future: "If Margaret doesn't wear a seat belt, she would be risking her life.". – user21820 May 14 '14 at 6:59
-1

After "I wish" follows a past subjunctive as in

1 I wish father were* here. The asterisk is my sign for past subjunctive.

1a I wish my father was* here.

were* can be replaced by was*, but this "was" has subjunctive function. In sentence 1 and 2 the wish refers to now/ to present time.

If your wish refers to past time you use past perfect subjunctive:

3 I wish father had* been here yesterday. It was my birthday.

You can replace "wish" by "would*" as in

4 (I) would I were* dead.

As you see this is an irreal wish and the subjunctive of "would*" and "were*" is logical. Only the "wish" in 1 to 3 is illogical as it has the sense of "I would wish (if I could*). I tried to convince members of another forum of this view but it was not accepted. Everybody affirmed that "I wish" is normal present tense.

All the same I think "I wish" was historically "I wished*" and as "I wished" is normally seen as past indicative and only in special cases as past subjunctive (for example after if) it was simply changed to "I wish"; the following past subjunctive still shows clearly enough that the sentence is meant as an irreal statement. My personal view.

I beg your pardon if I draw your attention to a parallel way of expression in German. In German it is only possible to express the irrealis with wünschte*:

5 Ich wünschte*, Vater wäre* hier.

Present tense ich wünsche is not possible.

-2

Describing current situation:

  • I have to go for therapy.
  • I have to paint the car red.

Describing past situations:

  • I had to go for therapy.
  • I had to paint the car red.

Describing current situation:

  • I have a court order that I have to go for therapy.
  • I have a court order that I have therapy.
  • I have a situation where I have to paint the car red.
  • I have a situation where I paint the car red.

Describing current situation about past event:

  • I have a history where I had to go for therapy.
  • I have a history where I had therapy.
  • I have a history where I had to paint the car red.
  • I have a history where I had painted the car red.

Describing current situation about past event, in shorter manner:

  • I have had to go for therapy.
  • I have had therapy.
  • I have had to paint the car red.
  • I have had painted the car red.

Describing the same situation about past event, a year later:

  • I had had to go for therapy.
  • I had had therapy.
  • I had had to paint the car red.
  • I had had painted the car red.

Therefore,

  • I wish I hadn't any court order by which I had to seek therapy.
  • I wish I hadn't had to seek therapy.
  • I wish I hadn't any history in which I had painted my car red.
  • I wish I hadn't had painted my car red.

Cascaded temporal displacements,

  • I had the experience of having the experience of having the experience of having painted my tummy blue.
  • I had the experience where I had the experience where I had the experience where I had painted my tummy blue.
    = I had had had had painted my tummy blue.

See also: When do we use “had had” and “have had”?

Also consider the similarity to:

  • I am going to school.
  • I am going to go to school.
  • I am going to going to going to going to going to ..... going to go to school.
  • 2
    Your "I wish I hadn't had painted my car red." is incorrect. – user21820 May 14 '14 at 6:55
  • I wish I hadn't the history in which I had painted my car red = I wish I hadn't {perfected situation} = I wish I hadn't {had painted my car red}. QED. – Blessed Geek May 14 '14 at 6:59
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    Sorry you're wrong. English is not like that. Try searching any standard corpus. – user21820 May 14 '14 at 7:00
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    I'm serious. Either you're not a native speaker or you're pulling my leg. But I don't want to argue; I just hope you go and listen to people who speak proper English. Perhaps in the future the language might change and accommodate your wrong construction, but it's not the case today. – user21820 May 14 '14 at 7:02
  • 1
    I mean that that very sentence is grammatically invalid in all cases, because it has the wrong grammatical syntax, regardless of meaning. I did not say anything about your other silly constructions, though now that you mention it, any sentence with "had had had" in it is also wrong in all situations. – user21820 May 14 '14 at 7:04

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