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Hello everyone I have a question about sentences with wish.
We all know that when both subjects are identical in sentences with wish for the future, would changes to could, but something I am doubtful about is whether can we employ couldn't in these sentences.

For instance we say

A: I wish he would stay --> negative form I wish he wouldn't stay
B: I wish I could stay home, there is a football match on TV --> negative form I wish I ? I hate football...

We can't use couldn't right?
How about in other sentences, can we use couldn't in other examples?
thanks so much

  • I wish I didn't have to stay home. – Peter Shor Jan 5 '15 at 18:22
  • which means we can never use couldn't in statements with with wish for the future right? how about this sentence, I wish I was not going to stay home? – user104128 Jan 5 '15 at 18:26
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    What "we all know" is not what you think, I'm afraid. This is not the way these things are decided. Modals work rather strangely in irrealis. – John Lawler Jan 5 '15 at 18:33
  • Things like "I wish I couldn't read minds" and "I wish I couldn't cry" seem fine to me. But I can't give you the rules for what's grammatical. – Peter Shor Jan 5 '15 at 18:33
  • I wish I couldn't read minds means I can read minds so, I wish I couldn't read minds, so this is not about the future, so it is perfectly fine to me as well, as is I wish couldn't cry, which means I can cry and I wish I couldn't cry ( for a situation you can't stop crying) , but can we say I wish I couldn't cry tomorrow? is this also correct? – user104128 Jan 5 '15 at 18:53
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Is this an acceptable sentence to you?

I wish I had an obligation that prevented me from staying home because I hate football.

If yes, then I believe it follows that the shortened form is also acceptable, even if the sentence is rare.

I wish I couldn't stay home because I hate football.

From another perspective, I believe the following two sentences are analytically the same and both valid.

I wish I were required to work on Christmas because my house is overrun by my family.

I wish I couldn't be at my house on Christmas because my house is overrun by my family.

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Couldn't does not make sense in these situations. Can is 'to be able to' and couldn't is simply could not. [past tense]

  • A: I wish he would stay --> negative form I wish he were not staying here
  • B: I wish I could stay home, there is a football match on TV --> negative form I wish I was not at home right now ...
  • No, "I wish I could" is the same as "I wish I were able to". – tchrist Jan 5 '15 at 21:50

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