I'm talking about wish the verb in the following sense only:

1.1 [WITH TWO OBJECTS] Express a hope that (someone) enjoys (happiness or success):

they wish her every success

As we can see, Oxford dictates that wish must have two objects when used in this sense.

In India, it's extremely common to drop the second object when it's understood.

For example:

It's her birthday today. Did you wish her?

It's highly unlikely in India that anyone would say “Did you wish her a happy birthday?”

In the above example, at least the context was introduced in the previous sentence, but this usage is also possible without mentioning the context when it is known by the people involved. For instance, on Mother's Day, a brother could ask his sister: “Did you wish Mom?” It's understood that he's talking about Mother's Day.

Also, it's common to introduce the context in the same sentence without using a second object. As in:

Ever since we broke up she doesn't even wish me on birthdays.

My questions:

  • Do native speakers use “wish” like this?
  • If they don't, does this sound right to them?
  • Is it a feature of Indian English; or downright wrong?
  • (EDIT:) How would a native speaker phrase these example sentences?
  • 10
    I can only speak from personal experience, so I won't post it as an answer. I had never heard this use of wish before I came into contact with speakers of InE. Once I did, I readily understood the meaning, and I have heard many speakers of InE use the verb like this. I would consider it indeed a standard InE usage of the verb wish.
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 11:59
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    @Josh61: the fact that understanding depends on the listener doesn't make it ungrammatical. That is like saying "do you have a rubber?" or "do you want a fag?" are non-semantic because the meaning differs greatly between AmE and BrE speakers. I agree that (most, if not all) native speakers of AmE and BrE would at least frown upon this usage of wish, but whose language is it, anyway?
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 12:41
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    I don't see why this question has a close vote. I think monotransitive wish is a well known feature of Indian English. It's described in Indian and British English: A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation (2004, p.197) and Contemporary Indian English: Variation and Change (2009, p.106), for example. It's not a feature of AmE or BrE (for example), and an answer can plainly say so and answer the rest of the OP's questions.
    – user28567
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:56
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    There are four downvotes, which is a huge shame. I'd like to hear theories as to how this InEng usage came about, how old it is, and whether InEng speakers use this form of greeting to other native (BrEng and AmEng) and non-native speakers. Is this more common among British Indians/Asians or N.American Indian English speakers? Does this practice continue to the next generation or are their children "taught" out of it at school?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 4:34
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    My fiancée's family is Sri Lankan with English as their primary language, and they use 'wish' like this all the time. As another example, her step-father (a native-born Australian) said "people will want to wish you after your wedding". They have always insisted that it is a perfectly normal way of using the word, despite my confusion at never having heard anyone else do it. This question helped me finally clarify that it's not some bizarre family-specific usage!
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 22:27

3 Answers 3


I have a hunch that the InEng (IE/IndE) usage is derived from the polite valediction, Best wishes, i.e. “I hope everything goes well for you”, and the phrase “send her/him my best wishes”. In both expressions two objects are not required, it is understood that the speaker is saying ‘I would like to send you the best of luck today.’

The InEng usage of ‘wishes’(noun) sounds almost Italian to my ears. In Italian the expression is auguri, and it's very common to just say to one another Auguri! when it is Christmas or the New Year. Tanti auguri is literally ‘many wishes’ which Italians say to each other on birthdays, it is also used to say ‘congratulations’ and ‘good luck’.

But do BrEng speakers use this form? No, not really. Before joining El&U two years ago, I had never heard this form of exchange before; e.g. “Did you wish mum?” In none of the English coursebooks or grammar books I have bought over the years, have I come across this usage, so my guess would be that it is currently considered non-standard English. But whether native speakers would understand it, is a different question, and I'd say ‘absolutely!’
In "I wish my colleague", there's nothing to decypher. Context will tell us if, for example, the colleague is retiring or on maternity leave.

The form has also entered the dictionary. In Cambridge Dictionaries Online

wish verb (GREET)

[Transitive] Indian English to welcome someone with particular words or a particular action: He wishes me every morning.

And its usage has been recorded by linguists and experts

Register Variation in Indian English
By Chandrika Balasubramanian

Indeed, Nihilani et al identify 1000 items (many lexical) in their lexicon of usage which they claim are “are used in a distinctive manner by large numbers of educated Indian speakers of English”

Wish: “IVE (Indian Vernacular English) speakers often use this verb where a BS speaker would say ‘greet’. In BS (British Standard), what is wished must be expressed...”

  • He wished me when we met this morning.
  • He's stopped wishing me

How might a native speaker say the following sentence in British English?

Ever since we broke up she doesn't even wish me on birthdays.

  • Since we've broken up, she doesn't even call me on my birthday
  • She never calls. She doesn't even wish me ‘Happy Birthday’ since we split up
  • Thanks for answering comprehensively. Since you asked, we're not taught 'Indian English' in our schools. We study BrE, and we pick some things up from around us; some of which are AmE, and some I guess would be InE. This usage of "wish" is so ubiquitous here that I'll have a hard time trying to phrase it any other way, not least because all other options sound a bit clunky to me. Someone in the comments said that this usage derives from translating a Hindi word. For the life of me, I can't guess what word he's talking about. And so, even I'm curious how exactly did this usage came to be.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 6:15
  • I believe FumbleFingers was making a supposition, asking aloud whether "wish" is monotransitive in Hindi. I understand fully that English is taught in India but I was only wondering if British-born Asians (Or American born) still adopt this usage, or if they are "taught out of it" at English-speaking schools.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 6:20
  • @BrianHitchcock But that's using "wish" to mean "desire", and to express frustration and irritation. We all know that "wish" has more than one meaning. My post is focussed on the greeting form. See the OP definition which is at the top of his question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 6:44
  • @BrianHitchcock: The wish usage I'm talking about is rarely phrased that way. I've included examples of common ways it is said in my post. Would you still be confused about the meaning of wish in those cases? Or is it easy to deduce (albeit a little odd-sounding)?
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 7:31
  • @Mari-LouA: In Hindi, wish isn't even a verb. What we normally say can be translated as: "I gave her my best wishes (for Diwali/the new year/her birthday../)". I think this got abbreviated in InE to "I wished her".
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 7:37

Do native speakers use wish like this?
I haven't heard this use before (British English). The way you are using wish - preferring not to specify the wished-for thing - sounds very like the way I would use the word 'bless' (which I don't use often).

Does this sound right to them?

It's unfamiliar but not off-puttingly so, and certainly thought-provoking!

This is how I would phrase the example sentences?

It's her birthday today. Did you wish her? It's her birthday today. Did you wish her 'Happy birthday'?

Ever since we broke up she doesn't even wish me on birthdays. Ever since we broke up she hasn't even remembered my birthday.

  • Thanks for answering. Quick follow-up: In your first example, sounds to me like Did you do anything can range from a simple "wish" to a lavish surprise party. In your second example, a card may not be necessarily what I'm talking about. Most of the "wishing" nowadays happens over the phone or via social media. I'm trying to say she didn't bother to call/text, if only to say "Happy Birthday".
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 8:59
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    I see. Well, I'm not sure she doesn't even wish me happy birthday is grammatical. And I'm not sure if it should be she doesn't even wish me happy birthdays or she doesn't even wish me a happy birthday. They all sound alien to me.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 21:13
  • @TusharRaj It's perhaps not grammatical, but "wish her 'Happy Birthday'" is common enough in American English. But "wish her" alone would not be understood. Commented May 22, 2015 at 1:03

I'm a native, and I don't use this expression. It sounds quaint to me, but not downright wrong; I know educated Indians who use expressions that are substandard in British English, but Indian English is it own idiom. For example, indians will talk about a famous drunk politician 'quaffing' wine, or will go 'thrice' to the shop in one day, or say that they 'missed their cell' (lost their mobile phone). 'Did you wish her?' can perhaps be mapped onto British English expressions like 'did you congratulate her?' I wonder if they would say 'Did you send her' (a birthday card)?

  • They won't say did you send her, and no Indian I know uses miss to mean lose.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 19:52

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